Thursday, December 31, 2009

This is for Brent Smith

I totally know your talented daughter-in-law, Emily Wing Smith. And I think everybody else should, too.

Here's a good resolution for you readers out there--pick up THE WAY HE LIVED and be impressed.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Just finished reading an ARC of a new transitional reader called "Magical Ms. Plum," and I really admired it. Go buy it for your kids! Right now! At the same time it made me feel depressed because I figured something I wrote in the same vein could never be as good. BUT I'M NOT JEALOUS. (Because I'm a big person these days.)

Here's what the author, Bonny Becker, does--she has more than one thing going on. Each chapter has its own story arc, but then there's an over reaching story arc running throughout the whole narrative about a smartypants boy named Carlos. And it's that over reaching story arc I would have failed to provide. I would have just stopped with the clever individual chapters.

Lesson for today: having more than one something going on is a good idea.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My year in review

Over at, Tiffany has a great post about her year in review. So with a grateful nod to a fabulous fellow writer, I'm doing the same thing.

January: Read Scandinavian mysteries (Karin Fossum is divine) and discovered LIFE ON MARS, both of which helped me to survive the month.

February: Helped Carma Wadley judge Sterling Scholars for the D-News, an experience which made me wonder what it would feel like to have a kid who didn't sleep in and miss math finals.

March: Came out of hibernation on March 15, just like always. And yes! There were daffodils blooming in my front yard!

April: Mostly rejoiced that I didn't have to go to soccer games and freeze to death at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings because my kids are old now. I'm always surprised by how crappy the weather is in the spring.

May: Broke my wrist and got a new plate and seven screws to celebrate.

June: Made important new friendships at the BYU conference. And then I sat on my big old behind on a So Cal beach and soaked up the sun.

July: Went to my high school reunion and discovered they can be fun after all.

August: Lived for the first peaches. Peaches never disappoint. Oh yeah and I went to France.

September: Watched football games, of course. Re-discovered how much fun it is to watch them with my dad. Graduated from physical therapy and have (seriously) a diploma to prove it.

October: Went all out for Halloween this year. At times I almost think I like Halloween better than Christmas because there are fewer dishes to wash.

November: Speaking of dishes, I did Thanksgiving at my house and loved it. Had a little come-to-Jesus with my mom and mother-in-law, in an effort to convince them THAT I'M A MATRIARCH NOW, TOO. Which means I shouldn't have to split up my holiday running between both of their places.

December: Seriously, people. The tree in my house puts the tree in the governor's house to shame.

And meanwhile the year was filled with good things to eat.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009


I'll be going to bed with thoughts of my grandmother who always wrapped me up in her arms on Christmas Eve and told me she heard reindeer on the roof. When she heard them, I heard them, too.

Just wanted to wish those of you who read this blog a Merry Christmas and to express my affection for you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your comments.

Hope your day is filled with food and light.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas books

The first year we were married, Ken gave me a Christmas picture book as a gift and I've been collecting ever since. I have to say this year hasn't been super strong on the holiday story front. I finally came home today with THE CHRISTMAS MAGIC by Lauren Thompson with pictures by Jon J. Muth.

It's a quiet book--frankly, I'm not sure kids will love it. But I think the language is lovely: "Every year, just when the nights re longest and the stars shine brightest, Santa feels a tingling in his whiskers. Then he knows that the Christmas magic will soon be here. . . " Muth's blue-hued paintings are a visual treat. So I'm happy with my selection. On Christmas Eve I'll have everyone write a message on the end papers (a la yearbook style) and all will be well.

And now on to food! My daughter-in-law had a fabulous Christmas tea party at her house yesterday with fancy china and an excellent spread. There were scones, cookies, strawberries, and a perfect quiche. Talk about Christmas magic!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I love the way my friend Lisa B. always says "the people." So I'm stealing her phrase and here I go.

I got nothin' on the writing front to say, but THE PEOPLE I made an excellent "Sticky Toffee Pudding" today for a leetle luncheon and wow was it ever good. It was just a gooey, date-y, moist-y, thick-y, rich-y slice of Christmas dessert heaven.

Yes. I know. It's good to be me at the moment because I have some "Sticky Toffee Pudding" in the house.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


So I'm fond of epiphanies in fiction. You know that moment where the character realizes something IMPORTANT like Charlie Brown does when suddenly he gets why Linus is standing there with a blanket wrapped around his head. Dude! Christmas isn't just about the presents! It's also about Linus standing there with a blanket wrapped around his head.

Only epiphanies in real life are often less . . . uplifting. Take the one I had the other day. For a long time I've wondered why when people find out I have a kid who's almost 30 they don't say, "But you don't look like you could have a kid who's almost 30."

Then I caught an accidental glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror and I'm all WOW. YOU TOTALLY LOOK LIKE YOU COULD HAVE A KID WHO'S ALMOST 30!

I had sushi today. That made me feel better although not younger.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday foods

The other day I was talking with my friend Nancy about how her family always has green onions dipped in mayo and covered with cheddar cheese because that's what their grandmother served as a special leetle holiday treat. And THIS reminded me of my sister-in-law Becky, whose grandmother used to stuff Bugle crackers with Cheez Whiz--a pretty darn labor intensive project. To this day, however, one of her sisters always shows up at a family holiday gathering with a little tray of Bugles.

Of course Sara Zarr did have to remind me of pigs-in-a-blanket. And I myself still remember the hot Dr. Pepper (garnished with lemon slices) my mom used to serve on Christmas Eve.

What about you? Any bad food items you remember with fondness? And even replicate this time of year?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Thief

Today at work, Annie and I started true confessing about books we've stolen--or wish we'd stolen (she once found a signed first edition of a classic kids book in her sister's hometown library and was sorely tempted).

I myself once took an old paperback edition of THE TWO TOWERS from the shelves of the beach house my family rents for a week each summer. Yeah and here's the worst part. The house belongs to nuns. So I am the kind of person who steals from nuns.

I have to live with that.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A different breed

So today I spoke to a group of kids at Bryant Intermediate and afterwards two adorable, enthusiastic girls talked to me about the fantasy novels they're writing. They described characters and plot twists at length--already they've both written more than I've written in my whole life.

Which led me, of course, to wonder (not for the first time) why people who write fantasy have SOOOO much more verbal energy than the rest of us.

Fair? I think not.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thinking about my dad tonight

This has nothing to do with anything, but I've just been thinking about my father tonight and how he has always called cities by their nicknames. L.A., Vegas, Philly, Cincy, Frisco. Dude's clearly an honorary member of the Rat Pack. Another thing to love about him.

Friday, November 27, 2009


I ran into some computer problems earlier this week, so I took my laptop into the paper to have the tech guys take a look. Here's the part I loved. The guy who was helping me had a big sign on his desk that said MOST PEOPLE ARE A WASTE OF TIME.

Is this not the perfect, absolutely perfect telling detail?

I want to turn my tech guy into a character and put him in a story.

Naomi Shihab Nye has a wonderful bit about finding poems in the strangest places. I feel the same way about characters.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

But may I hasten to add

That when certain men get going on living rooms, they and their woodworking skills are without peer . . .

The real difference between men and women, #23,777

Here's what women do when they decide to have Thanksgiving at their house. They buy a turkey.

Here's what men do when their wives decide to have Thanksgiving at their house. They tear up living rooms and stain wood.

I think we'll have it all put back together by tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's wrong with my brain?

Yes. I know. I promised I would only post about writing (and eating) matters. But, seriously, I'm sitting here wondering what is wrong with me BECAUSE of what I said to the lovely young woman (son's new girlfriend) who will be spending Thanksgiving weekend with us. "Don't worry!" I told her on the telephone. "I'll clean the bathroom for you!"

Okay. It strikes me in retrospect that this was possibly a stupid thing to say. She doesn't really know us, so what is she to presume? That we never clean bathrooms unless guests come? (Sort of true, actually.) That we think offering a clean bathroom is the height of hospitality at this house? That I have underdeveloped social skills? Also bathroom cleaning skills?

And here's the worst part. I almost called her just now to tell her I also washed the sheets in the guest room . . .

(Meanwhile, Jo is visiting from Idaho. We went to Martine's and had sandwiches and salmon. Delightful.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's Thursday already?

Oh gosh. And I haven't posted all week. I did eat an excellent red velvet chocolate cupcake, however, courtesy of my friend Rick Horne. THANKS, RICK!

Anyhoo. Had this experience walking home from grocery shopping today. Passed a group of jr. high girls hanging out in front of the Sev, when suddenly a Slurpee fight broke out. They started pouring their Slurpees all over each other, filling the air all around with screams and Slurpee-type scents like watermelon and blueberry.

I managed not to get hit with free-flying flavored ice. But the thought did cross my mind, "Seriously? I'm writing for this age group?"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Violating another one of my own rules

LIFE RULE # 1225: Do not listen to Christmas music before December lst.

Except yesterday I did. And I liked it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On your mark!

So it arrived today! The ARC for my book THE CHIHUAHUA CHASE, a middle-grade reader about a girl, a boy, and a lot of AWOL dogs. Like the flap copy says, "the race is on for Addie May to find a missing pooch!" I'm especially pleased with the illustrations by the Lovely and Talented Julie Olson (who, as it turns out, lives and works in Spanish Fork).

I would dearly love to have a Chihuahua of my own to take to signings in the spring when the book comes out. Dude! I would look just like Elle and that would BE SO COOL! But, as indulgent as he is, I think if I brought a Chihuahua home, Bob the Woodworker would have the divorce papers in the mail the very next day . . .

(For the record, my vet says of all the dogs he would never own, a Chihuahua would be at the top of his list.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not writing much . . .

, , , but still spinning scenarios. Does that count?

Like, last night, for instance. My youngest son was in the kitchen, listening to "Ramble On." So I told him that things went down like this before IT WAS HIS TURN ON EARTH!

DECIDING COMMITTEE: You've been such a valiant spirit. As a reward, we're gonna let you choose your mom.

MY SON: Whatever. I'm not picky. Just as long as she loves Led Zeppelin, I'm fine.

And so the Deciding Committee sent my boy to moi, the biggest Led Zeppelin fan on the face of the planet. Lucky him. Lucky me. We can sit in the kitchen together and listen to "Dazed and Confused" to our hearts content.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How do you . . .

. . . keep writing sometimes?

We've had Big Stuff--some of it good, some of it not so good--going on here lately, and it's all had the effect of making me too tired, too distracted, too uninterested to write. I'm sure you've all been there.

The problem is that I'm trying to treat writing like it's my job. And if I had a traditional job, I couldn't allow myself the luxury of calling in sick day after day. And also after day. I'm pretty sure I would be losing that traditional job in a big old fat hurry if I acted the way I'm acting now.

Gotta get myself in hand. Gotta kick my own butt. Gotta STOP BEING ME.

(Any suggestions? I'm serious.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What madness possibly looks like

So I worked the Pioneer Woman event at the bookstore last night.

As you probably already know, Ree Drummond (aka the Pioneer Woman) is an incredibly well-known, likable blogger who has just written a lovely cookbook that is also a glimpse into her life on an Oklahoma ranch. Anyway, she's on a limited tour and TKE was lucky enough to host her here in Salt Lake City.

Well. People started lining up at 4:00 for an event that started at 7:00. AND they came from all over--some had even driven in from Oregon and LA. Everyone was friendly and funny and great, and the staff had worked hard to make sure we were organized and fair. But finally we had to cap the event because there. were. just. so. many. women.

Okay. I completely SUCK anyway at delivering news no one wants to hear. So for me to tell a crowd of fans that they couldn't get in to hear Ree AND that they might not even be able to get their books signed was daunting. Everyone was understandably disappointed. I would have been, too. And given the circumstances, they were gracious. But a few were completely enraged. They didn't just want to burn me in effigy. Dude. They wanted to burn me in person.

When Ree arrived, people screamed and clapped and pretty much threw their room keys at her. It was like watching the Beatles on the old Ed Sullivan show.

Okay. It's totally fun to be a fan. If Derek Jeter walked past me I would scream so hard I would probably slip a disk BECAUSE I'M OLD AND HAVE BACK TROUBLE. But wow. After witnessing what happened last night I wondered how it would feel to be the object of that kind of interest. Seriously, I cannot imagine it. At all.

Anyway. Ree was fabulous. And so were the customers and staff. And I hope that for the most part people walked away satisfied. It was an evening NOT to be forgotten.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Guilty pleasures question

Is there a chain restaurant that you secretly like? Please advise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Basic black

Here's one thing you learn how to do when you live in New York: wear black. It's like you're only PERMITTED to wear black, especially in the fall and winter months.

Anyway. I totally took to it the year we lived there and for years and decades after I kept wearing it. Why? Because it's easy. And dramatic. And people confuse me with Angelina Jolie. Yes! They do!

But as of late I've given up on it. I want color. Especially if it's purple or orange.

So I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to make this about writing. Can I turn my shift into some larger metaphor about how sometimes you write one thing for a long, long time . . . only to realize (eventually) your tastes have changed? And that you ought to take the risk and follow where your new writing interests take you?

The answer is "no." This is just a post to say that I'm sick of wearing black. And also that I feel like eating everything in sight.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Breaking another one of my own rules

LIFE RULE #457: Do not put clothes on your dog for Halloween.

But okay we dressed up our newfie, Zora, as a cowboy with a plaid shirt and hat. The plaid shirt was unbuttoned at the neck, which meant that a lot of chestal hair came billowing out. Zora looked weirdly human--like a big hairy tranny.

Anyway. Boy Numero Quatro took Zora trick-or-treating, but instead of getting candy he got chewed out by a real Avenues sort for demeaning a dog. Here's the best part. The lady who chewed him out was carrying her Chihuahua in a snuggly. Seriously. I do love love love my wacky neighborhood.

Ate Milky Ways bars until I went into a coma. A very, very happy type coma.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Books and Christmas

I'm subbing at the bookstore today (The King's English on 15th and 15th--come see me). And I think I'll start some holiday shopping while I'm at it.

You'll recall (maybe) that I asked if you liked getting books as gifts because I'd begun wondering if they just created a sense of obligation in the giftee. But after reading what Shannon Hale had to say on her blog recently, I've had a change of heart.

Shannon issued a call to action to her many readers. BUY BOOKS AND GIVE THEM AS PRESENTS THIS YEAR! She said. Only more eloquently. She spoke of the publishing industry and how everyone is wondering (nervously) where the world of print is headed. About the only thing we as bibliophiles can do is express our commitment to books by putting our dollars there.

And of course I think it's important to shop indie.

So! Books it'll be this Christmas!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How to respond to people who think writing books for kids is a warmup act

I stole this from my friend Kerry's blog (visit her at Windmill Watching). Thanks, Kerry! This says it as well as anything I've encountered.

“Many people believe that authors of children’s books eventually ‘graduate’ and go on to write books for adults. That’s like saying your pediatrician may get good enough to, one day, be a doctor for grown-ups.”

from Joy Feldman, author of The Gollywhopper Games

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blog as sketchbook

First let me just say that there's a sloppy snow going on outside which makes me feel like staying in bed until March. But not until I have eaten a whole pie first. (Possibly razzleberry.)

Okay. What I really want to say is that when I started blogging I had no idea that it would be something I could use the way an artist uses a sketchbook. You know how artists are always sitting around parks drawing stuff that captures their fancy and then how they use those bits later in an actual painting? Well, sometimes in my blog entries I just throw out random observations which, upon reflection, I realize might be the start of a column.

Especially when my deadline was YESTERDAY and I got nothing for my people. Hence, I think I'll take that riff on Nick Zano's abs and turn it into 500 words. And I will keep Valynne's comment in mind that whatever. She wouldn't mind kissing him for research purposes. NOT that I'll mention her by name.

(At least I don't think I will . . . )

Monday, October 26, 2009

This is one Monday . . .

. . . when I'm glad my dad isn't coaching anymore.

Strange, though, how old habits die hard. Like, I've been avoiding the papers, the TV, the radio so that I won't accidentally have to hear about how CRAPPY BYU played on Saturday (it's true, though--they did play like crap). All the old instincts of self-preservation kicked in, and all I could do was keep my head low, just like when I was a kid.

Sometimes I think I should write SOMETHING about what it was like to have a dad who coached college football. But I've been reluctant to look like I was trading on his name. And, frankly, I've always been more interested in writing about commonly shared experiences than the exceptional ones.

Still. When I told the story tonight about my sixteenth birthday and how Don Ho sang happy birthday to me (I was the one wearing an orange muu-muu) in a night club because one of my dad's former players ran the joint, my kids said they'd never heard it. And that made me think I should write some of that stuff down.

Friday, October 23, 2009

If you know me

. . . you also know I am completely addicted to celebrity gossip. Which is why I'm sitting here at my desk looking at LIFE AND STYLE instead of working on a column.

Specifically I am looking at an article called "The Hottest Guys on Fall TV," mostly because I don't get it. Take this photo of Nick Zano on pgs. 46-47 (yes! it's a spread!). Apparently he's Courtney Cox's cougar bait on her new show. (Topic for another day--the bogus-ness of cougar-ness.) Anyhoo. He's shirtless. And he's ripped. And tanned. And his jeans are barely skimming his chiseled hips. But he's POUTING like a full-on girl working it for the camera. And his hair is all gelled and styled AND THE WHOLE PICTURE IS SO NOT ATTRACTIVE. Like, what would happen if you actually tried to kiss this guy? Would he always have one eye on a mirror?

Because you just know with a guy like this there would always be mirrors involved.

Obviously I need to get busy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

And I forgot to add . . .

. . . that a number of writer friends (including Sara Zarr and Emily Wing Smith) are being honored tonight at a ceremony at the Salt Lake City library. The Utah Book Award will be awarded to the best book of 2008. But come on. They're all best books.

Back home

The trip to Cedar was lovely. I listened to P. D. James' INNOCENT BLOOD, one of her few stand-alone novels. It's dynamite. Whenever I read James, I hear whispers of Dickens and Trollope. Also the Bible. What amazes me is her closely observed details of setting, her profound sympathy for unsympathetic characters, and her image-making ability. I think she's just grand.

The talk went well. As I suspected, no actual teens showed up. The average age of my listeners was probably 65. But they were totally game and engaged, and I wanted to have a big old pizza party and sleepover with them when I finished.

I ordered a meat pie at the pub instead of fish and chips. Fish and chips would have been a better call. The waitress warned me that the meat pie was sweet. And I thought that would be fine. But I kinda didn't fancy the clove-i-ness of it all.

Came home to autumn in the Avenues. Let me tell you, people, there is no more beautiful neighborhood in autumn than mine. Not to be rude.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm off to Cedar City!

To talk about "teens"! And "books"! And how to connect the two!

I hope I have actual teens in the audience because it would be interesting to hear what they have to say, as well as get a few great recommendations. I suspect, however, I'll have mostly parents, whom I will encourage to read YA for themselves because there are just so many great YA novels.

While in Cedar I plan to eat at the restaurant at the Crystal Inn which features pub food in keeping with all things Shakespearean. A pot pie or fish and chips sound mighty fine right now on the fall-ish day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pet peeve

Movie trailers that give everything away . . .

Last night I went to see THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE and sat through twenty minutes of previews that were basically Cliff Notes. And by the time they were done I went wow. I don't have to see a single one of those movies now. Riddle me this: what is the point of a trailer like that?

I liked SEPTEMBER ISSUE, a documentary about scary Anna Wintour, the editress of VOGUE. By the time it was finished I was grateful I don't work for her. At the same time, I always admire people who are just really, really fabulously good at what they do. I did want to see her eat steak, but alas it was not to be.

Speaking of eating--I ate a limited edition (what a concept) Snickers bar today that had fudge instead of caramel. It was highly satisfyhing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

But seriously now who is Scott Bakas?

I think I meant Scott Bakula. See below and everything will be illuminated. Which is close to the title of another movie I actually did like.

Do I Even Remember How to Blog?

The answer is "no." Like, I even forgot how to "sign in." I AM SO LAME. But I'm gonna step up to the plate and take a few cuts and work on being less lame.

During my long silence I did manage to do a few things like drive to Oregon to see my law school son and his wife. While there we went to see the new Matt Damon flick, THE INFORMER. Or maybe it's THE INFORMANT. Whatever. Anyway. Seeing the movie gave me a chance to think about storytelling and risk.

For those of you who haven't seen the movie, it's about a corporate whistle blower. Sort of. Not surprisingly, Damon is great. Scott Bakas is great. The production values are great. It's a movie that's easy to admire. Which I did. EXCEPT I didn't like it. This happens sometimes--you can appreciate an artistic endeavor for all kinds of reasons, but in the end, the thing just leaves you cold.

I think the problem for me had to do with the whole "control of sympathy" issue. Generally speaking, we want to read about or watch characters we can root for--even if they're "bad guys." Think of Russell Crowe's character in THE 3:15 TO YUMA, for example. But Damon's character (for me, at least) was unlikable and even worse, uninteresting. I. Just. Didn't. Care. About. Him.

I can sort of see all the parties involved, sitting around a table going, "Let's try something different! So we won't be bored with ourselves as artists any more! Let's do a WHOLE MOVIE ABOUT A SCHMUCK!" Probably the process was interesting for those involved. But dudes. Come on. Think of the audience.

I ate a liverwurst sandwich today. I am the only person of my generation I know who likes liverwurst.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Most of the mail I get from D-news readers is friendly, but occasionally I do tick off people who respond by writing something nasty to me. The rare exception is that letter (or e-mail) I received the other day. A woman was concerned that I used the word "crap" in a column. She was distressed by my crude language and told me so. But she was very polite about it and offered both praise and encouragement along the way.

Now the honest truth is that I'll probably not stop using the word "crap" because I have liked that word ever since I discovered it in the fifth grade. But I genuinely appreciated the tone of the reader's e-mail and felt kindly disposed toward her and her posterity.

I had a fudge malt at Hires last night--probably the last I'll have in a while since it's supposed to be turning into winter tomorrow night. Bleh. Winter.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another column I probably won't write

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms . . .
1. weakness
2. dizziness
3. disorientation
4. numbness in hands and arms
5. profuse sweating (to the point where it appears you've been running through the sprinklers in your suit)
6. extreme clamminess
7. Drop in body temperature
8. Profound nausea

. . . PLEASE CALL 911 AND GET AN AMBULANCE instead of making your secretary call your wife who cannot run red lights with you strapped into the front seat. Even though she wants to.

Okay. Now that we have that out of the way, may I just say I am so very, very, very happy that after observing him closely for 1 1/2 days in the hospital, everyone there is pretty sure that my husband didn't have a heart attack. LDS hospital's staff is the greatest. Meanwhile, we are very grateful to family and friends who have been sending prayers and all best wishes our way.

Husband looks great, feels great, and is doing great. Not sure what caused the "incident" or "episode" (hospital talk), but right now he has a clean bill of health on the cardiac front and that's fabulous news.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The best thing about St. George . . .

. . . is that my girl Emma and her husband (Jason) and baby (Haley) live here. We met them for dinner at Cafe Rio and the pork taco, my friends, did NOT disappoint.

After seeing Emma and Jason, Ken and I gave the Miata a bath, then returned to the condo here to watch the first two episodes of LIFE ON MARS (the British edition). Mystery Girl recommended the series to me after I told her how much I loved the American version and WOW! Was she ever right! Smart, creepy, darkly funny, it's pretty much catnip.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Goin' south

My husband and I have decided to make a little impromptu trip to St. George tonight to stash his girlfriend (i.e. the green miata convertible) for the winter. This means the possibility of burgers from In n' Out looms on the horizon.

Had a conversation last night with writer friends about what we want. Fame? Money? And here's what we concluded. That someone wants to buy our next book. That there can even BE a next book. Far from being supremely confident beings, most of us semi-pro writers exist in a semi-fearful survival mode, I think.

Thanks for your input this week. Feel free to post more. I love hearing from you guys.

And oh btw it turns out I have a natural appitude for the air guitar. I nailed about a dozen songs on my first try yesterday.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

If you don't want to get Alzheimer's . . .

Then you should eat blueberries and learn a new skill. That's what an article by Elaine Jarvik in the D-news the other day said. Which is why I have decided to take up the air guitar. I've been practicing riffs by the Black Keys all morning. Yes! I know! I'm amazing!

In other irrelevant news, I ate a steak salad at the Tin Angel for lunch. It wasn't as good as the life-changing steak salad I ate at the ESPN Zone this summer, but dude. A steak salad is a steak salad is a steak salad, and all of them make my life worth living.

Now onto the real business of the day. I appreciate your posts about boys and readings. Am looking for further enlightenment, so if you haven't contributed, please do. Meanwhile, I have another question. Am currently reading a collection called PARIS STORIES by Mavis Gallant, which I think a certain friend of mine would ADORE. But I hesitate giving it to her for this reason--do books as gifts feel like burdens? Or not?

I realize this is a strange question for a former bookseller to be asking, but it has occurred to me that when people give me books, I always feel obligated to read them and guilty when I don't. At the same time, I would have never read one of my favorite books--THE LOST GARDEN by Helen Humphreys--if Betsy hadn't given it to me one year for Christmas. So I am double-minded on the subject.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Yes! I love spelling "boys" that way. It makes me feel so gangsta.

Anyway. I may have posted on a smiliar topic months ago, but I've forgotten if I did, and I hope you did, too. I'm speaking in a few weeks about "boys" and "books," and I'd appreciate any input you can give me by answering any of the questions that follow.

1. What books have the boys in your life liked (titles and ages would be helpful).
2. Why did/do your boys like those books?
3. What kind of books do your boys not like? Feel free to share dealbreakers here.
4. Why is the market for children and YA (this is a true stat) 80% female? In other words, why do girls appear to like reading more than boys?
5. Any tips for getting boys to read?

Thank you, readers. I love you.

Monday, September 7, 2009

This Week's Column

So, once again, this is Ann's fourth son providing a link to this week's column, since she hasn't decided to take 34 seconds and learn how to do it herself. Geeze, I wonder if people from her era are even able to do stuff like that on the computer. One of the world's great wonders...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A request for vous

Did you like the "vous" part? That's because I still have France-ness on the brain.

ANYWAY. Thanks all for reminding me that there are good movies and bad movies, just like there are good books and bad books.

So now here comes the request part--would you share a fave movie or two here on my blog-a-matic? There will be no judment on my part. How could there be judgment from someone who subscribes to (and faithfully reads!) STAR magazine?

BTW I did see 500 DAYS OF SUMMER and liked it a lot.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What I did a week ago on my way home from France

I watched a movie, which I rarely do these days, although there was a time (remember those days, Lisa B.?) when I could beat ANYBODY in the movie edition of Trivial Pursuit. I don't know what happened. I got ADHD and couldn't sit still for two hours. I got old. I stopped caring. Whatever. Anyway.

But since I was trapped thousands of feet above the ground, breathing recycled air and listening to strangers snore while I was eating peanuts, I thought what the hell. Might as well do SOMETHING. So I watched the film offering which was HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU.

And? It reminded me of why I stopped going to movies. It was lame, lame, lame. The women were all needy and the men were all dirtbags and really, who could even believe the Ginnifer Goodwin character FOR A SINGLE SECOND?

It's sad that I don't care for movies anymore, though. I hope this is not what getting older means--that the things you've loved stop giving you pleasure.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What Kerry said

Take a look at the third comment under my previous post. It comes from Miss Provo's sister, aka Kerry.

This brings up an interesting point for discussion. When should you tell as opposed to show when writing fiction?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Why is this working?

So speaking of the creative writing teacher in me . . .

I'm finally reading a book that my good friend Kim has recommended for years--THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett. In fact, I bought it in France and started reading it on the airplane and every flight attendant who walked past me said, "That's my favorite book."

MEMO TO KEN FOLLETT: Dude. The world is full of flight attendants who "heart" you.

Anyway. Follett consistently violates the Numero Uno Rule of Writing: he often TELLS instead of SHOWS. For instance, he'll say stuff like "Agnes was his soulmate" or "Alfred hated Jack." Just boom! There it is. If either of those sentences came across my desk I would be all, "Show us what Alfred-hating- Jack looks like." And then I would make my student rewrite that bit.

But here's the thing. The narrative Follett has going is completely compelling. I'm liking the book a lot--especially the female characters who are extraordinarily vivid. And all the while I keep asking myself, "Why is this working?" because basically the advice to show (not tell!) is sound.

I'm looking forward to consuming a double fudge malt tonight. The thought of it keeps me going.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm . . . confused

So THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson is a book that's gotten a LOT of buzz since its translation from Swedish into English. And since I always love me a mystery written by a depressed Scandanavian person, I decided to buy a copy and heft (it's thick) the novel along with me on my trip to oh la la France. Anyway. I read it. And here's my short review: I'm conflicted.

I wanted to love it, but I didn't really. There's a lot of sexual torture in it, and while the novel could have certainly been more graphic, it was graphic enough for me. Also, I kept having these moments where I wanted to go INFORMATION DUMP! Or SHOW DON'T TELL! In other words, the novel caused the creative writing teacher in me to go on full alert.

On the other hand, the lead female character, Lisbeth Salander, is truly compelling. I keep thinking about her, and I want to find out more about her. What's her back story? What's the deal with her mom? Will she stay out of the clutches of her creep social worker? Only I don't want to read the other books (which look to include more sex and torture) to do it. So if you read them, let me know.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oh la la!

I'm back! From France!

I was lucky enough to spend the past 10 days in France cruising the Seine River with my parents and seriously. A good time was had by all. Especially when it came to eating mussels and frites. Also cheese. Also pastries. Also baguettes. Also little blood orange ice cream cones. Also apricot ice cream cones.

So I made a deliberate decision to leave my computer home, which meant if I wanted to write I did it by hand. Just like I did in the olden days. I had a special little pen and a special little notebook, and whenever the spirit moved me, I worked on a new middle-grade novel.

There was a time when I wrote EVERYTHING by hand, and it was fun to reconnect with that process. There's something so deliciously deliberate (I can't believe I just used the word "deliciously") about spinning out your sentences by hand. It was a pleasure. HOWEVER! I will be using my computer now that I'm home.

And I'll be blogging again regularly.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ice! Cream!

So I made the decision some time ago NOT to go to Costco because a) I always spent at least $100.00 on b) a lot of stuff I ended up throwing away. TIP: a good price for a bag of bell peppers doesn't matter when you only need one bell pepper AND NOT TWENTY.

But my neighbors Kathy and Janet have been raving about hand-dipped ice cream bars which you can buy along with your polish dog at the Costco, so I drove myself down there tonight to buy one. Like everything else you buy at Costco is was waaaaaay bigger than it needed to be. That part cannot be denied. Still. It was very good indeed--especially the toasted almond part.

Yes! Another food find!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another column that I won't write . . .

. . . mostly because I can't in good conscience write another one about my broken wrist. BUT! Went to physical therapy yesterday and had this experience. The pt looked at my scar and said we needed to loosen it up, so she went, "John! Get me THE EXTRACTOR!"

Doesn't "extractor" sound like a scary word to you?

And suddenly my darling pt looked like Chloris Leachman in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and John looked like Igor dragging his knuckles across the floor, off to find body parts and extractors.

The extractor was a large syringe used for sucking-up-scar purposes. It hurt. It hurt so much I had to eat a lot of pasta and some garlic bread at Heaps Brick Oven in Provo yesterday to get over it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New column

"Once again, I have called on the help of my fourth son to provide a link to my column, because I have forgotten how to do it."

Okay. My son wrote that. What I want to point out are the comments because everyone is mentioning their favorite bad boy name. I'm guessing a lot of disappointing boyfriends and ex-husbands are getting some play time here.

Monday, August 3, 2009


When I started blogging I figured no one would stop by to read because seriously. Who wants to read about what another person eats? But here you are! And you're always so nice! Which is why I just want to say thank you for visiting.

Now step outside and look at the moon. It couldn't be more beautiful.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A room of one's own

So here's what I did today. I rented myself some office space. Sara said I could rent right next door to her AND I PROMISE NOT TO BUG HER. Sort of. She in turn promises NOT TO LET ME HAVE THE WI-FI PASSWORD to the chez so I will write when I'm there instead of getting online and reading crap about Brad and Angelina.

Anyway. I'm excited. I have a room here at the house, but I am too easily diverted by the jobs I have when I'm home. I love being able to open a door, step inside an office . . . and walk inside my own head. I rented an office to finish my first book CAL CAMERON (written shortly after man discovered fire). I also rented an office to finish up CHARLOTTE'S ROSE. Hopefully, I can be productive.

On the eating front: it was just hog American roadside diner heaven yesterday. If you haven't been to Maddox, go. It's a slice of history on highway 89. I had a filet mignon done medium rare, a baked potato soaked in butter and sour cream, corn on the cob and cornbread with raspberry butter. And because I was feeling fancy, I started it all off with a seafood cocktail.

I love America.

That is all.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I'm sitting here waiting for my mom. We're going to drive to Brigham City so we can eat lunch at Maddox. That's how much she and I care about these things. We'll get in a car and drive far distances to eat fried chicken, whereas I really cannot be bothered to go to a life-saving doctor's appointment if it's south of 21st South here in Salt Lake. There's something kinda sick about this, I think.

Anyway, I'm also thinking about a conversation I had last night with the luminous Carol Williams. Carol made the observation that most people who've been successful in the world of kid lit have tended to focus on a genre rather than being all over the place. There are notable exceptions, of course. But even people like Cynthia Rylant have focused on one genre at a time during their careers, even if they write everything from picture books to YA.

This has made me wonder about my own career. I've tried a lot of different things--sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I don't regret it, and really part of the reason I've tried different things is that I couldn't sell a YA novel for awhile, even though that was my first love.

I have to say I think Carol's right, though. Most people with splendid careers seem to have an identifiable focus. Am I right about this? Are there obvious exceptions I'm forgetting? Your thoughts, please.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

And here's another embarrassing thing

That I would use a restaurant in NEW YORK CITY (Sylvia's) as my standard for good southern cooking.

Column idea

Sometimes I think it would be interesting to do a column on the things we're secretly embarrassed about when it comes to ourselves. But okay. That would be TOO EMBARRASSING, because then I would have to write a column about how I somehow have three cats living at my house now.

Three cats isn't exactly over the top. Yet. But it's an alarming trend.

On the food front . . . if you love southern barbeque, then grab a loved one (or me) and go to Pat's Barbeque at 155 West Commonwealth in Salt Lake City. Commonwealth is one of those little city side streets where people take their cars to have body work done. But don't be put off. I have never had better southern soul food--not even at Sylvia's in New York. Plus they had a video of a Black Crowes concert going on the whole time, which gave me ample opportunity to point and tell my son that the lead singer used to be married to Kate Hudson. Which he would already know if only he read STAR Magazine.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bree Despain

So one of the pleasures of teaching creative writing is that you can get out your pom-poms and CHEER!!!! when a former student makes good.

Last summer lovely Bree "Divine" Despain signed up for my class at BYU's Writing and illustrating for Children's Workshop (best conference in America btw) and shared a thrilling paranormal romance along the lines of TWILIGHT with us. Anyway, I was impressed and had a feeling Bree would sell it. Which she did. And people THE DARK DIVINE comes out in December. Yay for our Bree!

I want to make two points here. The first point is that I didn't teach Bree a thing. She was already an experienced writer and workshopper when she showed up to my class. But I'm delighted to claim her as a former student.

Second thing. I said THE DARK DIVINE is similiar to TWILIGHT, which it is, because there's romance! And creatures of the night! But without taking anything away from Stephenie Meyer's achievements, which are considerable and I do feel like she gets picked on unfairly, I think THE DARK DIVINE is more tightly constructed from the sentence level on up.

I'm so proud of Bree and I wish her all the luck in the world.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dreaming redux

So I'm still trying to capture my dreams in the belief that remembering them will somehow help me as a writer EVEN THOUGH I HAVE SUCH STUPID DREAMS. The good news is I dreamed last night that Gwyneth Paltrow e-mailed me because she likes my column! The bad news is I forgot to answer her!

This dream started out well--but turned grubby quickly.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hello again

I don't know why I didn't blog at all this week. Apparently I lost my will to blog. Also live. Also eat cupcakes. It was a bad week in some ways, but I'm better now.

I was listening to (cliche alert!) NPR this morning on my way to (cliche alert!) the Farmer's Market this morning to watch fellow Salt Lakers (cliche alert!) sip coffee and parade their rescue dogs around Pioneer Park. ANYWAY. I was interested in the interview with a writer whose name I missed (but his British-type accent was dead sexy) who called the reading and writing of poetry a Slow Word Movement--not unlike the Slow Food Movement. His point, of course, was that to read poems, you have to slow down and savor what's there in order to have a meaningful experience.

I loved this little analogy and wanted to say one of the pleasures of this otherwise disappointing week was to read some poems by my friend Lisa Bickmore, who often posts here. She's all about the Slow Word Movement, and I feel nourished because she shared her work with me. She used to be my second favorite poet after W. B. Yeats. But now she is officially my favorite poet.

And actually now that I think about it--I saw and heard from several friends this past week and that was all good, too. Thank you, friends.

Yes. In my happy place now.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Randi!

You know how I try to keep this blog about writing. Also food. BUT! I have to divert here for a moment.

Almost three summers ago, my two oldest boys grew up and got themselves married to a pair of extremely awesome girls whom I could NOT adore more. One of them has a birthday today, and I just wanted to give her a big shoutout with the following list:

1. She has a great laugh
2. She's a dynamite school teacher
3. She's put my son in touch with his outdoorsy self
4. She has a flair for interior design
5. She's a good dog mama to her pug Leila
6. She's always game for new experiences
7. She taught me how to crochet a scarf
8. She's a wonderful daughter, sister, friend, daughter-in-law, aunt and wife
9. She has excellent taste in earrings
10. The world is a nicer place because she's in it

Friday, July 17, 2009

My writing plan at the moment

I'm gong to sit here and write TWENTY MINUTES without getting up to do laundry or go the bathroom or try on a pair of new earrings or grab another can of Dr. Pepper out of the fridge or change the radio station or (YOU FILL IN THE BLANK).

This is always what I tell people to do at conferences. Set aside a few minutes every day--a few super FOCUSED minutes--and go for it. SUCH FREAKING EASY ADVICE TO GIVE.

And then after I write, I'm going to do physical therapy on my wrist and hand, i.e. play solitaire with actual cards. I devised this bit of therapy myself and yes. I think I'm pretty much a genius.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An attempt to restore my credibility as a serious writer and blogger

So really I'm just sitting here thinking about the cupcake I didn't get this morning (Backer's does a faux Hostess thing with filling and white squiggle on the top). But just to prove to you all that I awesomely care about the craft of writing, I want to share with you a list of mine I recently found in some of my notes. It's called MISTAKES I HAVE MADE.

1. Not having a plot.
2. Not being in-scene.
3. Not being specific.
4. Not reading something aloud.
5. Not giving a piece a cooling-down period.
6. Not reading widely and regularly enough.

Those are mistakes of craft. I have made (also) mistakes of the spirit. They include the following:

1. Waiting for inspiration.
2. Waiting for the right time of life to write.
3. Backing off a project too soon.
4. Letting my fear get the best of me.

I'm thinking of writing an article about this all and offering some solutions. The best one being DO NOT TAKE UP WRITING.
I feel that way sometimes . . . but mostly I'm glad I get to do this.

I've done this more than once this week . . .

. . . driven to Backer's Bakery to buy a cupcake. And remembered as soon as I got there that they've "gone fishin'" until the end of this month. So then I have to say dammit and drive away u.n.s.a.t.i.s.f.i.e.d.

The concept of Groundhog's Day is more entertaining when it's not your actual life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


So I spent part of the day yesterday at the Alpine School District main office, meeting with a group of fabulous writing teachers, including my funny friend Chris Crowe. Chris (author of the amazing book MISSISSIPPI TRIAL, 1955) is currently into Zombie Haiku. He tossed this bit of verse off yesterday:

fresh tiramisu
a zombie delicacy
real ladies' fingers

Here's another:

"Let me pick your brain"
not a metaphorical
request from zombies

This was written by Claudia, one of the teachers in the group:

So much alike, both
Zombies and psychologists
Want inside your head.

I came up with this:

For you my dear love,
I'd give an arm and a leg,
Then watch you eat them.

Okay. Time to wrap this up. Now that I've ruined my dinner . . .

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Maybe Doug would have me on his show if I spelled his name right

Yeah. I spelled Fabrizio wrong in my labels (see previous blog entry). Anyway, our Carol did a grand job--when I could hear her. The sound on the 11:30 show today went in and out. V. annoying, especially since no one was on call up there to hear me whine about it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Carol Williams on TV tonight

So one of my fave authors (and people!), Carol Lynch Williams, is being interviewed tonight on Channel 7 at 7:30. The interview will be re-broadcast on Sunday at 11:00. Carol will be talking about her breakout book THE CHOSEN ONE, as well as about her life as a writer. Not that anybody told me for sure. But I'm guessing.

Anyway. Tune in if you're in the area as opposed to being in China. Is there anybody in China reading my blog? if so, please identify yourself.

I ate a cupcake yesterday for the first time in many weeks and it didn't send me in spite of the intense mocha-ness of it all. Who knows why? Maybe cupcakes are too dense a food for summer?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Advice for beginning writers by P. D. James . . .

. . . as reported in the Authors Guild Bulletin (Spring 2009):

"You must WRITE, not just think you're going to. It doesn't really matter what you tackle first, novel, short story or diary. And you must widen your vocabulary, enjoy words. You must read widely, not in order to copy, but to find your own voice. A student of architecture has to work at other buildings, see what other architects have done and ask why they were so good. It's a matter of going through life with all one's senses alive, to be responsive to experience, to other people."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The answer is yes

The question? "Do you ever run out of ideas for your column?" I'm asked this whenever I speak, and while I usually have something bubbling on the backburner when I sit down to do the column every Monday, there are times when suddenly! It's Tuesday! And still no column!


In this case I'll just have to find something, anything, and noodle around with it for awhile until I can turn it into 500 halfway decent words. I've done it before so it's easier to have a little faith in the process. Still. Light a candle for me.

Meanwhile I bought a raisin-filled cookie from Parson's Bakery in Bountiful this afternoon and snarfed it down in a single sitting. I think I've mentioned before that raisin-filled cookies are one of my benchmark foods, along with potato salad, coleslaw, chili rellanos and key lime pie. Not many folks make them anymore. Parson's does a nice job.

And finally--I was in Bountiful to have my wrist checked. The brace came off today. SO YAY for that. I have limited motion, though, so it looks like lots of p.t. ahead.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Checking in

So I started reading a book in a new series by the divine M. C. Beaton, author of my beloved Hamish Macbeth series. This one's called OUR LADY OF PAIN and it's set in Edwardian England. Sadly, I am feeling disappointed. Beaton's weaknesses--her tendency to underdevelop and fall back on too much exposition--are really apparent in this one. I'll finish it but I probably won't read another in the series.

Okay. Since this is a literary blog, I felt obliged to throw in something about books or whatever. Hence the above bit. But what I REALLY want to say is that I had many helpings of potato salad to celebrate the Fourth yesterday. My mother-in-law makes the BEST potato salad known to mankind. She doesn't mess it up with pickles or too much mustard. it's just a smooth potato-y, mayonnaise-y delight.

I was groggy with potato salad-induced happiness.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Watch out what you wish for

So way back last winter, I posted about dreams and how I wasn't having them anymore and also how SAD this made me because I think writers should dream vigorously and pay attention while they're doing it. And many of you offered suggestions about how I could up my dream quotient, including Kerry who suggested I break something because pain helps trigger dreams. Apparently that's why I broke MY WRIST. Thank you very much for the suggestion, Kerry!

Anyhoo! I did dream twice last night. Here's what I dreamed:

1) I dreamed I was telling a really long story to a group of people and realized halfway into it that I was being comletely boring.

2) I dreamed that I noticed a boy in a cast whose upper arm was as flabby as mine because his muscles had atrophied, too.

These are the kind of dreams I put into a category called GRUBBY LITTLE DREAMS. Included (for me) in this category are dreams where I try on swimsuits and the sales clerks laugh at me or where I step into sprinkler holes and trip in front of my old junior high school.

Meanwhile, Stephenie Meyer dreams about golden, glistening vampires swirling about in meadows.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What the well-dressed writer is wearing

It's my 35th high school reunion on Friday, and the only goal I made for myself was NOT to buy something at Chico's, because I know a whole boatload of people who make fun of middle aged ladies who buy their clothes at Chico's. Except somehow it was the first place I ended up. Also the last place. Read between the lines.

Dude. Pass me the estrogen and turn on the Oprah Show because. I. Am. There.

Did I mention I had an excellent turkey/cranberry sandwich at Hires the other day? WHO KNEW?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yup. This is a post about Michael Jackson

Over at Five Crows, Louise Plummer blogs about how sad she feels about the King of Pop's death and I feel the same way. I don't know. There's just something about the passing of an iconic figure--someone we all knew of--that makes us feel our own mortality. Plus, a lot of us watched him grow up--from vibrant little boy to boneless dancer to tragic freak show--all played out before our eyes.

Anyway, our oldest son loved Michael Jackson so much when he was in kindergarten that he used to wear a single batting glove to church. I didn't object. I never object if something amuses me and anyway I have low standards when it comes to grooming, as everyone knows.

I later took our son's love of Michael Jackson and gave it to the young boy character, Sinjian, in AMAZING GRACIE--a book I wrote so long ago it almost feels like it was written by someone else who lived on another planet. But I thought of Phil and Michael and Sinjian this morning with longing for moments past.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Book reports: while on the beach I read three-and-a-half books. THE LIGHTHOUSE by the luminous P. D. james, SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS by the bubbly, prolific Madeleine Wickahm, DISSOLUTION by the thorough and humane C. J. Sansom, and half of THE TOURIST by Olen Steinhauer. As you can see I'm mostly into mysteries. ANYWAY. One word reviews because OKAY I'm still writing with one hand and I tire easily.

THE LIGHT HOUSE: Deeply satisfying (sorry--2 words!)
DISSOLUTION: Surprisingly sad (see above)
SLEEPING ARRANGMENTS: Light and accomplished (3 words)
THE TOURIST: More Ludlam than LeCarre but still enjoyable in a paranoid kind of way (lost count)

Food report: I ate the best steak salad in the history of the world at the ESPN Zone in Disney Shopping Land. AMAZING. I may never eat anything I'll enjoy more.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Home! Again!

Just in.

Came home to a mountain of laundry and mail and loads to do. I'll get to my e-mail tomorrow. But I just have to post briefly about the concert we went to at the MGM Grand in Vegas last night. We saw Eric Clapton and Little Stevie Winwood and MAY I JUST SAY those guys are freaking awesome STUDS. Here's why. They started the show pretty much on time w/o an opening act. Neither guy said much--just went straight for the instruments and PLAYED for 2 1/2 hours without a break. Unbelievable. And they were in great form, too. Everything was tight, tight, tight. They moved seamlessly from one song to the next without messing around in between. Talk about pros. And of course I die from happiness every time Little Stevie Winwood does the squall thing on the organ.

Anyway. It was the best damn concert I've ever been to and I have always loved me a live concert.

Back to reality.

Friday, June 19, 2009

cali update

here. internet super slow.

good news though! gulls screaming. waves crashing. air sharp and salty. heaven.

have eaten at in-n-out TWICE in less than 24 hours. also heaven!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

betwixt and between

Which is where I am. At least when it comes to writing projects. I finished one novel this spring. Haven't started another. There are reasons, the primary one being MAYBE I'M A SLACKER. But I think the larger problem is that none of my ideas make my heart sing.

I've written novels that way before. The idea of writing a pioneer story definitely did NOT make my heart sing. NOT AT ALL. And yet I ended up loving CHARLOTTE'S ROSE. Doing that novel turned into an important experience for me on a lot of fronts and to this day I am completely proud of that book. In spite of the fact I goofed up when it came to some facts of geography. But oh well!

Sometimes you have to get into a project before you fall in love. It's kind of like an arranged marriage that way I guess.

It's just that there's something in me right now that wants to fall in love first.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


In 1974 I went on a BYU Semester Abroad to London, and it changed my life. I made friendships that have lasted to this day, and I came home understanding that the world is a REALLY BIG place. Since then I spend a bit of every day in London in my head. Seriously. I think of my doppelganger often, wondering what she's up to. Riding the tube? Eating a curry? Visiting Old Bailey to catch a glimpse of grown men wearing wigs?

On Monday our third son is taking off for London for a BYU summer abroad, and it's a sweet moment for me. London is a great town for young people. He's gonna love it.

The wrist is SORE people. I overdid at the conference last week and I feel like I've pulled a thing or two, in addition to the break. BUT! FORTUNATELY! There's always good food to be had and that eases the pain. Had spinach/fontina soup at The Tin Angel today and felt happy to be alive.

Monday, June 15, 2009


So okay you know how much I love to write imaginary letters to celebrities. It's fun! And I make myself laugh! Only the letter I want to write this time does NOT amuse me at all. I want to write Jon and Kate and tell them to STOP EXPLOITING THEIR EIGHT. The thought that people would put a camera on their babies for public consumption like that just makes me very, very queasy. What in the Sam Hill ARE THESE PEOPLE THINKING?

It's bad enough that some of us write columns about our kids . . .

Friday, June 12, 2009


The conference is over for another year. I am bone tired. Probably I couldn't have kept up for another day. But I find I'm sitting here at home already missing my students. And missing Louise-in-the-next-room, too.

I treated the whole damn family to Hires tonight to celebrate the end of a week well-spent. They were champs while I was away. And the best news of all is that the newfoundland didn't eat the furniture.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

More conference talk

Well . . . I meant to post all week long. But I've been REALLY tired at the end of each day. Tired but inspired. Great 411 each day all day long. I think the thing that's hit me this time is how important it is that a story have exterior and interior action--and that both kinds should keep the narrative moving forward. Simple. But genius, right?

I've had a wonderful class this year. Excellent writers. Excellent critics. I want them to e-mail me at Christmas and tell me that they've finished their novels and sent them out. That would be a grand gift.

Yesterday my class took me to Joe Vera's on Center Street where we dined on Bandidos. Muy excellente! And then last night I had dinner with an old friend from Provo and we had chicken tortilla soup from Cafe Rio. Here's what I learned about eating chicken tortilla soup at Cafe Rio with a broken wrist. Dude. It's hard.

Tonight I shared cake with famous author Claudia Mills.

It's been a fine week.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Conference stuff

So I'm sitting here by myself in a motel room in Provo, thinking about how although I do like Conan, I really resent not having the familiar comfort of Jay Leno doing headlines on a Monday night. I feel like my routine has been seriously messed with. AND I DON'T LIKE IT.

But okay. That's not what I want to blog about. I just wanted to mention that my friend Louise Plummer gave a very useful and entertaining talk in a breakout section this afternoon at the conference. She talked about coping strategies for writers overcome with anxiety (and aren't we all). She made the comment that talent + time + discipline = success. And she's right. I'm fond of telling people that you never reach a place in your life where you have "enough" time to write. We're always busy--with school or with little children or with jobs or with aging parents. Whatever. You have to decide to write. You have to then make time for that writing every day--even if it's just for twenty minutes. The writing doesn't happen unless you plan for it to happen.

On the food front! Friend Valynne showed up with cupcakes for me from So Cupcake! And even though I was trying to swear off cupcakes I practically kissed her in front of my students and proceeded to eat them all in secret during the day so I wouldn't have to share.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Heading south

I'm off to teach at BYU's annual (and excellent) Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers workshop. Anybody with an interest in the world of kids' books should seriously check this one out. it's an amazing conference.

This is probably the fourth or fifth time I've taught and I'm feeling almost not up to the task because (I hate to say this) the break thing has taken more out of me than I want to acknowledge. It's an intense, hard week for participants. And yet I'm thrilled to be involved. Honored, even. I'm always so energized by my fabulous students who teach me more than I teach them. So light a candle for me with the prayer that I can do right by all those involved.

I'll try to post throughout the week and share what I'm learning.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

SCBWI event at TKE this afternoon

So this is cool. Several members of our local chapter of SCBWI (see earlier reference this week to my incredibly lame and not funny speech on humor) are having books come out. Way to go, writers! The bookstore (15th east and 15th south) is having a launch party for them today from 2-4. Since I plan to stop by and say hey, I completely groomed this morning for the first time since the wrist breakage. Washed hair. Shaved legs. Trimmed nails. Okay. Definitely TMI. BUT IT WAS HARD AND I WAS SHAKING BY THE TIME I FINISHED.

Had strawberries for breakfast. And a Dr. Pepper. Even though I decided last night to stop drinking Dr. Pepper for a month.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Patti's yummy lemon ice cream

A few weeks ago I mentioned in a column that my mom makes a great lemon ice cream. Some readers have asked for it, so here's the recipe she gave me. I do feel the need to say that my mom often cooks "by feel" which can make her an unreliable reporter of measurements. But this looks about right.

4 cups sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
l 1/2 tsp lemon extract
2 quarts milk
1 pint cream

Add ingredients in the above order, putting the cream in last.

Churn, baby, churn.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

humor and kids' books

i was invited by our local chapter of the SCBWI to talk about writing humor for children. I eagerly accepted the invitation because I've had both editors and librarians tell me lately they'd like to see more funny books for kids. But once I began preparing for the talk, I ran into a little trouble. Can you really teach people how to write humor? I was reminded of E. B. White's famous observation that you can certainly analyze humor but it's sort of like dissecting a frog--you kill the thing in the process.

In retrospect, I realize I could have talked a little about joke-writing for kids--a skill I learned from the inimitable Rick Walton. Start with the answer and work backwards. So in other words if you want to write zoo jokes, you pick an animal (hippopotamus), play around with the word (hippopottymouth) and then come up with an appropriate question: what's big and gray and swears a lot?

But I didn't do that. Instead, the best I could come up with was the idea of modeling--pay attention to WHO makes you laugh (Sceizka? Park? Cabot?) and then ask yourself why. And then try to write in the style of . . .

it seemed like a really lame presentation, actually. I was halfway through and I thought to myself "I'm wasting everyone's time." I hate it when I waste people's time this way.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

a good way to depress yourself

watch a re-run of the cybill show. in the middle of the day. on lifeline. wherein cybill is feeling worthless. while you're feeling a little worthless too.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

wrist update

had cast and stitches removed today. bitchin' scar. will wear supportive brace for a month but already have more movement in fingers. soon i will be using the shift key again.

am preparing a presentation on revision strategies for next week at byu's conference. i'd appreciate any sage advice from you fabulous writers out there.

and finally there are cold mashed potatoes in my fridge from kfc and actually i can't think of anything that sounds better.

Monday, June 1, 2009

an unexpected pleasure

i feel fortunate over the years that i have been able to view the business of books from a couple of vantage points--both as a writer and as a bookseller. lately it occurs to me that one of the really great things about being a writer/bookseller is that i have the honor of handselling books by other writers i know.

utah is crazy rich with writers--particularly in the world of children's and ya lit. and everytime i go to work i almost always sell a book by one of our own. saturday night i sold two by jessica day george. last time i sold one by anne bowen. and of course right now carol williams' new title is flying off the shelf.

yep. this is the place for pretty cool writers.

ate some excellent chicken enchiladas dropped off by margaret neville from the bookstore. i love that place. i love the people there.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

discuss please

so i asked agent tracey what she thinks i should write next because while i have always believed you should write from the heart and write about what interests you, i would like to find something that interests me that i might be able to sell on down the road, you know? writing a novel is a long absorbing process and i'd like to increase my chances for having it all mean something when i'm done.


She told me to think middle-grade. Twelve year old character. Classic coming of age stuff.

So i'm trying to think of the books i really, really loved when i was in the fourth/fifth/sixth grades to guide my thinking. and i would love you to tell me what books you loved when you were a kid. you can even tell me why. please don't feel shy about posting if you've never posted before. i'd really love your feedback.

i apologize if i've asked for the info before. it's possible because i'm forgetful. like sometimes i obviously forget to hit the shift key when i need to cap.

on the food front? it's been raining cupcakes here. thanks to everyone for bringing them by. and thanks to my neighbors for food and love.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My favorite e-mail from a column reader today

"I read your article about Memorial day. I am absolutely outraged that you wrote that you loved the French! AND FOLLOWING THE f-word and in the same sentence, YOU put my country AMERICA. YOU CLEARLY MUST BE A FOREIGNER. No red blooded AMERICAN would ever put france in the same sentence. And particularly ahead of AMERICA! You owe me and my countrymen a huge apology."

Monday, May 25, 2009


now that i can't knit due to breakage, i'm reading a tad more. right now am reading the indian bride by a norwegian named karin fossum. she used to be a poet and you can tell because her use of language is slightly more disciplined than what you find in the average mystery (and i say that as a person who loves the average mystery). i'm reading with several lobes of the brain at the same time--the lobe that just enjoys the story and the lobe that keeps asking how is she doing that. it's the curse of being a writer a little. you can never completely sink into a novel and lose yourself the way you did before you started writing yourself.

friend susan also dropped by the fairy tales of oscar wilde since we're supposed to be reading him for our bookgroup tuesday. dude. i'm over the irish now. this year has been a grim slog through alcoholism, catholicism, mom-ism, whatever. maybe oscar will uplift me. we'll see.

still knocking back dr. pepper. also plowed through a mountain of cummings chocolates from tom and louise. am craving garlic burgers but don't have the will to drive myself to a public place and eat.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What i've learned and also it's official

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: if you are right-handed, you sure do a lot of things with your right hand.

IT'S OFFICIAL: Waterboarding is, in fact, torture. i know this as a result of having my husband attempt to wash my hair. Let's just say I had water in my eyes, in my nose, and in my mouth. If Sean Hannity still needs convincing about waterboarding equaling torture, I will send my husband over to wash his hair.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

everthing is fine . . .

to borrow a line from our cute ann dee ellis.

so i now have a plate and seven screws in my wrist. like i always say go big or go home. not that i ever say that. but dude. i will be setting off alarms at airports for the rest of my freakin' life. how cool is that.

okay. i'm slower at writing with one left finger than i am at texting. but whatever. i've got lots and lots of time.

here's what happened. kathy and i were running down j street so we can be all fit and healthy and extremely awesome old ladies. except i stepped on a loose stone and pitched forward amd kind of rolled downhill in a very unawesome old lady way. i won't lie. it hurt. but i figured my wrist was just sprained and i wouldn't let kathy go get her car. we walked home. i called my brother the docor who has apparently forgiven me for turning the garden hose on him when i was four and he was two and trapped in an outdoor playpen--anyway he's always way happy to attend to our family's little emergencies. so q drove me out to bountiful with the emergency brake on where i gotsome x-rays and the news about the surgery.

so there you have it. really everthing is good. i have dr pepper and freaks and geeks to watch. my kids and girls are being great amd i appreciate your kind posts.

surgery update

first i am typing this with one left finger. second i am having a hard time with the shift key. obviously.

anyhoo--i broke my wrist this fine may morning and must needs have the surgery this afternoon. i am worried about what will come out of this mouth under anesthesia. also i forgot to shave my legs. but thank the lord my underwear is super clean.

if i don't post much in the next day or so, you'll know why.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Disclaimer first

This post could sound garbled. About 30 minutes ago I took a bunch of Advil for my muy sore knees. Only it wasn't Advil, it was Tylenol P.M. WHY DO I NOT PAY CLOSER ATTENTION TO CONTAINERS? I once accidentally brushed my teeth with fast-actin' Tinactin because I do not pay close attention to containers.

Anyhoo! I just wanted to say that I read again to Randi's students and they seemed engaged with the story, so that's good. What I really want to say, though, is that even though I went over this manuscript with a fine-toothed comb (I thought), I found a few spelling errors and unnecessary word repetitions as I read. ALOUD.

You see where I'm going with this, don't you? You. Should. Always. Read. Your. Stuff. Aloud. Especially before sending it to your agent.

On the food front, I am having a root beer freeze from Hires AS WE SPEAK.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My version of mortification

So there's this fabulous book out there called MORTIFICATION, which is a collection of very short essyas about authors' worst public moments--signings and readings gone seriously (channeling Robert Burns here) "aglang."

Anyway. I had one of those moments yesterday. And while it wasn't as bad as the time I had to sit next to Richard Paul Evans at a Deseret Book signing right after he changed the history of the world (and also the universe) by publishing THE CHRISTMAS BOX, I'm still shaken by what happened yesterday.

I was one of the many Utah authors invited to attend the Provo Children's Book Festival, held in the beautiful old library there on University Avenue. And really it was a smashing success for all the attendees. There was so much to see and do and all the planners should be kissed on the lips.

The problem for me personally happened during the book signing. Okay. Writers of realistic fiction have glumly resigned themselves to the reality that if you're signing with fantasy authors, you'll pretty much be the ugly girl at the junior high dance again. Fantasy authors have lines all the way to Wendover while you sit on the end of the table, signing the occassional scrap of paper for a kid whose mother has made him get your autograph (and I'm the first to say my autograph isn't worth much).

On the one hand, you get used this. Fantasy has always been popular, of course, but it's hot hot hot right now. And when you have both the lovely Shannon Hale and Brandon Mull on site, well then it's like having rock stars in your midst. (BTW, if you ever decide to write fantasy and get famous, take a page out of the Shannon-and-Brandon book. They are unfailingly gracious and humble about their impressive achievements.)

On the other hand, you have this experience over and over again and you start getting demoralized even when you've taken a sacred vow to be your best and most mature self. Well, demoralization happened to me in a big way yesterday. I mean NOBODY was swinging over to my end of the table with one of my books--not even one of the pirate books in paper. What I found out later was that the booksellers hadn't even bothered to order any of my titles. And I wasn't the only author there to whom they did this. Apparently they mostly brought over fantasy. Lots and lots and LOTS and also lots (as well as truckloads) of fantasy.

In my other life as a bookseller, I understand why this may have happened. Fantasy is profitable, contemporary fiction is not (except in rare instances). When you do an event, you are faced with the dilemma of how many books you should order so you won't be stuck with stock you have to return or shelve. I get all that. But my bosses at The King's English, Betsy Burton and Anne Holman, would never NOT order books for an author because not ordering books for an author feels like disrespect.

And we hate to be disrespected because we are such delicate hothouse flowers, don't you know.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Where did this week go?

I blogged on Tuesday. Which feels like five minutes ago. But here it is--Friday night already.

In my defense I've been pretty busy. I subbed at The King's English tonight, for instance, where we had an event for Jessica Day George who is writing up a storm. I have to say it's really gratifying to see so many of our Utah authors do so well. Yay Utah authors! And yay for the readers, booksellers and reviewers (I'm thinking of Scott Renshaw from City Weekly here) who support them.

And now for the Subject du Jour (thanks, Kim, for the suggestion)--how do you handle criticism of your work?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

And another word or two about cupcakes

I know I haven't mentioned cupcakes a lot lately, and perhaps that has led you to believe I haven't been indulging. Sadly, I must confess that I haven't been THAT virtuous.

On Saturday I went to Shelley's baby shower (twin girls!) in Springville and enjoyed tasty little cupcakes from Cupcake Chic. I especially liked the minis with strawberry flavored frosting. And I don't even like strawberry stuff much.

The best cupcakes of the weekend were the ones my other adorable daughter-in-law, Kendell, made for me on Mother's Day. They were yellow cake with white creamy frosting, dusted with sugar and topped with sugared myrtle flowers. They were as beautiful as they were tasty.


I just glanced over my recent posts and REALLY! If I didn't know myself and read these, I would say "Here's a big baby girl who's feeling picked on." How unattractive is that?! Sorry. I'll stop whining about column readers' comments. The truth is that most people who send me e-mails are lovely and gracious. And I am lucky, lucky, lucky to have the opportunity to do what I do.

Meanwhile--I read again to Randi's class. Here's what I learned today. That all the things we tell our students to do at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop at BYU--staying in scene, showing not telling, avoiding flashbacks--are true. I think adult readers (and writers) are okay with interior action (and that includes remembering), but I REALLY noticed that the kids lost interest when the action wasn't moving forward . . . and fast.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Another Monday, another way to annoy readers

Here's how. Write a snotty column about Mother's Day. Check out the comments. I ticked off EVERYBODY. And the funny thing is that I really had a truly lovely day yesterday. Best damn Mother's Day ever.

Reading out loud

So my adorable daughter-in-law Randi (who teaches fourth grade at Lincoln Elementary) is letting me read my latest manuscript to her kids. I read the first chapter today and it! was! so! much! fun!

I think I need to rework the first few pages, but once things got rolling the kids did seem pretty engaged. And after I finished, they wanted to know when I was going to turn it into a movie.

Here's what makes me happy about this experience--even if I never sell it, the book has a chance to be a book with these kids. What a joy!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wishing I could violate my own rule

I have a few rules of conduct I try to follow as a writer. One of them involves not getting into shouting matches with column readers whom I've annoyed . . .

Anyway. I just read a letter to an editor stating that if Ann Cannon wants to dump on TWILIGHT, she should actually read the book first and not just blog stalk for her 411.

Okay. I want to get in my car, drive to this person's house, possibly pull her hair (girl fight! girl fight!) and say "I read it! Give me credit! In fact, give me EXTRA CREDIT!!!!!"

Only I won't. Because I'm a professional. And also I don't know where she lives.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Another column I probably won't write

Because I have a column in the paper, I get a lot of press releases for EVERYTHING. Today I got one from the UFRW (Utah Federation of Republican Women) announcing that they have come out in support of Miss California for her stand on traditional marriage.

Okay. I happen to think Perez Hilton is pretty much a weenie although I do check in at his blog from time to time. And Miss California was certainly within her rights to express an honest opinion. BUT the press release struck me as unintentionally funny because come on. Do you really think of "Utah Republican Women" and "nude pictures of Christian models splashed all over the internet" in the same thought breath?

I don't either.

So anyway I responded to the press release, saying pretty much what I just said above and got a terse response, (sort of) taking me to task for focusing on the bikini factor instead of on her moral bravery.

I heart America so much.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Poems for Mother's Day

Just got back from the inspirational lesson session. While I was there, a guest performed a Mother's Day song that was a leetle over-the-top in terms of sentiment. The residents enjoyed the performance, so that's all that matters. But it did put me in mind of bad Mother's Day poems like the following by the very earnest Rev. E. E. Bradford (1860-1944).

"His Mother Drinks"

Within a London hospital there lies,
Tucked in his cot,
A child with golden curls and big blue eyes.
The night is hot,
And though the windows in the long low ward
are open wide,
No breath of air comes from the sun-baked yard
That lies outside.

A kindly nurse who sees his wistful smile,
To cheer him cries;
"The doctor says that in a little while
He'll let you rise,
And send you home again!" His eyes grow dim.
She little thinks
What since his father died home means to him--
His mother drinks!

Feel free to get into the spirit of the holiday by posting Bad Mother's Day poems yourself.

Fear Factor

The first Thursday of every month I go to a nearby rest home and give a little inspirational lesson. Today I'm going to talk about "fear." Because yeah. Fear is so inspirational. Anyway, I want to share a list of things I've been afraid of at different times in my life, so lucky you! You guys get to see my rough draft!

--talking to new people
--my brother and his ability to make everyone like him more than they liked me
--looking out my grandfather's VW bus and noticing the sheer drop below when we drove to his favorite Wyoming fishing hole

--coming in last place in field day events
--Mrs. Robbins (the first grade teacher)
--Mr. Baggs (the sixth grade teacher)
--losing friends
--moving because my dad lost his job
--Ouija boards and also Satan
--my nightmares
--stories about Weeping Marys in the graveyard

--not getting asked to dance
--skiing down "the face" at Timp Haven
--mean girls
--boys not related to me
--being made fun of
--my mother giving me a bad perm

--not getting good grades
--losing girlfriends to their boyfriends
--disappointing my parents
--getting another moving violation and losing my license

--I was too damn clueless in college to be afraid

--I would turn out to be a crappy mother
--someone might call DFS on me if I turned out to be a crappy mother
--someone might drop in without calling first and notice that I was also a crappy housekeeper
--reading the Sunday newspapers if BYU lost a football game

--the feeling of invincibility male adolescents have
--the feeling that my best years were behind me and I hadn't done much
--I'd never publish another book

--not death (oddly)
--the future and what it holds for my kids
--not knowing what I should do next as a writer

--Me driving at night

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Column I Won't Write

I have a whole stack of columns I won't write for the paper, mainly because I know people will recognize themselves in an uncomfortable way. And really. That's not what the column's about. However, I feel like I can do a quick blog entry because not many people read this and those of you who do won't mind. THANK YOU BLOG READERS. I totally kiss you on the lips!

So my youngest boy came home yesterday and told me he saw the mother of one of his old friends at a restaurant. Now here's the deal about this mom. She has always been "smoking hot" (as all those ladies in weight loss commercials like to say about their new bodies). Seriously smoking. In a tan-blond-white-toothed-drop-dead-gorgeous-So-Cal kind of way. Even eleven year old males (like my son and his friends) were reduced to little puddles of nervous boyness whenever she walked into a room. Anyway, my son hadn't seen her in awhile and he reported that she'd "put on a few L.B.s."

"So am I skinnier than her?" I asked.

He thought about this for a moment. "No. I think you're about the same now."

His future wife will be happy to know that I gave him a terse, brief lecture on how NOT to answer that question.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

After all these years

So I've been drafted into helping with my high school reunion, which is funny because I don't really like to go to my reunions. Anyway, I went to a planning meeting where I was surrounded by former classmates . . . and suddenly I felt like the shy, tongue-tied, awkward seventh-grader I was way back when.

The reason I bring this up is that people who write for young readers are fond of telling you at which age they terminated growth. Well, last night I was thirteen all over again. And. it. was. so. not. fun.

What age are you? Psychologically speaking, of course.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Here's what happens when . . .

. . . you give your son your password. He writes things like "my Cadillac of sons." Yes. It's true. He wrote that previous post. I want my other sons to know this, in case they read this post (which I doubt they will). Sons, you are all Cadillacs to me.

Okay. You'll see yourselves here. I used your info about "Dogs" and "What They Eat" for the column. My gratitude runs deep. Thank you.

Another Monday, another column

So, since my Cadillac of sons, Geoffrey, showed me how to link, I'm going to be doing that a lot more. Here is the link to my column for this week.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Where NOT to write

At Nordstrom. Here's why.

I was supposed to meet my parents for lunch at the new Nordstrom in the Fashion Place mall. Only they were REALLY late, so I sat down in a chair, pulled out a notebook, and tried to collect my thoughts for a piece I have to do. EXCEPT I was too distracted by the sight of women tottering around, wearing ridiculous shoes. Towering heels! Gladiator sandals! Shoes that look like cages! It's like everyone was channeling Gwyneth Paltrow.

Here's what I think about shoes. Unless I can run across the street and down a flight of stairs to catch the subway in them when I'm visiting New York, they're pretty much useless to me.

(My parents finally showed up. We went upstairs where my dad had a club sandwich and my mother and I ate Chinese chicken salads. I know you were wondering.)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A miracle is about to occur

Everybody watch this! My son Geoffrey is about to show me how to link to my column in the Deseret News.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to REALLY tick off thirteen year-old girls

Publish a column in the Deseret News suggesting that in real life Edward Cullen might be considered a stalker . . .

Dude! Laisse les bonnes temps roulet!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ann Dee Ellis at The King's English tomorrow!

Okay, folks, you should know that Utah's own Ann Dee Ellis has one of THE most original voices in YA today. I'm very serious about this. And her new book EVERYTHING IS FINE is a terrific read.

Anyhoo. She'll be at the store at 7:00. I think she'll be reading. I know she'll be signing. Come by and say hey. And watch for an interview to be posted here soon.

It's Monday! Time for letters to celebrities!

Dear Robert Pattison,
Is it because I'm old that your hair bugs me so much? Dude. Wash it. Thank you.

Dear Billy Ray Cyrus,
Is it because I'm old that your soul patch bugs me so much. Dude. Lose it. Thank you.

Dear Jared Leto,
Is it because I'm old that your eye makeup bugs me so much? Dude. Break out the cold cream. Thank you.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

How do they do it?

I met up with Gene Nelson (Provo Librarian and Children's Lit Guy Extraordinaire) on Friday at the ULA meetings, and I was struck again by his PASSION for kids books. Like, he was going to dress up as "Cool Motorcycle Dude" man to perform a reading that afternoon of a picture book he loves and wow. Can I just say I was impressed? And jealous? He's been in this world for a long time, but he's still feeling the love.

My own enthusiasm is flagging right now, so I find myself intrigued by people who can find ways to keep connecting and caring. How do they do it?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Other people's children

Am working a shift at TKE in the kids' room all day today. I always semi-dread Saturday shifts because some parents just turn their kids loose to do whatever. All that rough handling of the merchandise starts to make me r-e-e-e-a-a-a-a-l-l-l-y nervous. We can't sell something that's been profoundly mauled. Shouldn't that be obvious? And yet it's not my place to ask parents to help their children treat the books respectfully.

So. I'm just bracing myself.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Feeling humble

Yesterday I went to Provo (family seat and so forth) to hear my mother give a presentation on THREE CUPS OF TEA to her literary club. As I drove south I knew these three things for sure.

1. My mother would give a thoughtful, well-prepared report.
2. She and all her friends would be dressed to the nines.
3. I would be served an excellent chicken salad.

And I was right!

But here was the thing I didn't expect--to be so touched by the all of it. I was touched by my mother's passion for the book. I was touched that some of these women have been getting together for over forty years to broaden their world through literature. I was touched by that generation's commitment to pulling on a pair of pantydamnhose and looking so GREAT in the middle of the day.

They kind of made me feel like an intellectually flabby badly dressed slacker actually. Not that I'll be buying pantyhose any day soon. But still.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Falling (momentarily) (also happily) off the wagon

So in Monday's column I kvetched about that nasty cupcake I had at Barnes and Noble to make the point that food should TASTE good. Duh! And I mentioned that I like Mini's here in Salt Lake. Well! I heard from cute Laurlee Morrison of Cakes de Fleur about her cupcakes, suggesting that I give her cupcakes a try. And then she offerred to drop me off a box of them--AT MY HOUSE.

I did not say no.

All right, people, they were excellent--chocolate with chocolate frosting, chocolate with buttercream frosting, carrot and lemon. Heaven! The cupcakes are mouth-meltingly moist. And flavorful, too! Wow. I was groggy with delight.

You can buy Laurlee's baked goods at Emigration Market, The Store, The Store Too, and Pirate O's in Salt Lake City. Or place an order directly at 801 474-CAKE.

(For the record, this is the first time I've ever scored something because of the column. Thank you, Laurlee, for restoring my faith in humanity.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In my other life

My boy Alec once did a funny post about googling your own name and seeing who you find out there in cyberspace, not counting yourself. It's like going on a snipe hunt, only in this case you're going on a doppelganger hunt.

Anyhoo! One of my doppelgangers is also an author (just like me!) whose most recent title is SEXUALITY: GOD'S GIFT FOR ADOLESCENTS (just not like me!).

Okay. Can I even tell you how entertaining it has been this morning to imagine myself writing that particular book?

MY TEENAGERS: Mom! We're hungry! When are you going to fix dinner?
ME: As soon as I quit writing this book about you and God and also sex, okay?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More adventures in sampling

So, as I said, I'm laying off the cupcakes for a bit. And I'm trying to like diet drinks, which is hard, because they leave the same kind of chemical-y aftertaste in my mouth that my friend Marilyn complained of when she was undergoing chemo. Still. I'm determined. So I've been driving around the valley sampling diet Cokes on tap. Yesterday, for example, I went to McDonald's on Seventh East and Second South. That's Phil's favorite place to get a diet Coke, and with fresh lemon it wasn't so bad. Except for the part where I couldn't taste my food for the rest of the day.

Just now I went to Hires and bought a CHERRY diet coke. A large one. With crushed ice.

Crushed ice wins.

Writing letters

I finished up a novel and sent it to Lovely Agent Tracey last week, which means I should start another. Only I don't feel like writing a book at the moment. Instead I want to write letters to famous people. Here's what I would write.

Dear Gwynneth Paltrow: Stop hanging out with Madonna. I think she could be a bad influence on you.

Dear Drew Barrymore: What's up with your hair these days anyway?

Dear J-Lo: I just read where you want your nanny to check in with you every thirty minutes and give you an update on the twins.
Dude. Can't you walk across the hall and take a look for yourself?

Dear Candy and Tori Spelling: Quit writing snotty books about each other. It isn't helpful.

Dear Angelina Jolie: Except for the kissing-my-brother-on-the-lips part, I used to want to be you. But now I think you're sorta crazy.

Dear Mel Gibson: I never saw a young man more handsome than you were in THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY. May I say I'm so very sad the years have not been kinder to you?

Dear George Clooney: Stop working for the fug girls and come work for me.

My son Geoffrey gave me a subscription to STAR magazine for my birthday last month. Best. Damn. Present. Ever.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Feeling the newspaper love

Whenever we were on the road as a family (which was a LOT in the summer), my dad always started off his morning with the local paper. It's a habit I acquired from him, especially when I pass through small towns.

My favorite small town paper is the The Beaver Press, which I always, always, ALWAYS buy on my way to St. George. I love getting updates on church ball games and the Senior Center menus (this week at the Milford Center you can get pork chops, creamy chicken with rice, and chili dogs--just not on the same day). I'm especially fond of the Beaver County Sheriff's Report that gives you the straightup 411 on criminal activity in the area--1 abandoned vehicle, 1 animal problem, 2 assualts, 1 burglary, 3 citizen disputes, 1 convulsions or seizures, 1 livestock problem, 2 unconscious persons, etc.

My favorite bit this week was a wedding announcement that concluded with the following sentence: "Please consider this your invitation."

I realize it sounds like I'm making fun of the paper. I'm not. Honestly, I love that there are still places in the this world where everybody knows everybody and that what happens there matters. A piece of me wishes I had a life in a place like that.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

First things first

Just got back from St. George. Spent the weekend offline. Came home and found kind posts. Just want to say thanks to all of you. Reading your comments is like opening up a nice little gift on Christmas morning. Or eating cupcakes. Which I won't be doing for awhile, I've decided, because I have gained many pounds the last 18 months. But whatever. The point is I do appreciate you guys.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

To attend or not to attend

As an on-again-off-again employee of The King's English, I've had the opportunity to attend a LOT of readings over the years. In fact, I attended one last night. Heather Armstrong, aka "Dooce," did a reading at the Framery (next to the store), and she was everything her many fans would have wished for--gorgeous, funny, sassy.

When I was telling a friend (a poet! and a fabulous one!) about the event, she told me how much she does NOT enjoy going to readings, even if she adores the author. And I do have to say that some of the readings I've been to at TKE made me want to seriously sedate myself. Literary short fiction writers tend to be the worst. They drone on in these portentous monotones with occassional (and sometimes suprising) bursts of emphases. Like I remember this one writer who read the word "broccoli" as though it was full of special significance and symbolic heft, which it wasn't. It was just the word that happened to be there when she randomly switched gears from "monotone" to "dramatic."

Anyway. Enough of that. I want to know what you think about readings--as someone in the audience, as someone who's been the reader.

Meanwhile you'll be thrilled to know I ate two cupcakes this afternoon. One of them had orange creme frosting.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On writing a Harlequin romance

Yesterday over lunch Louise brought up the subject of Harlequin romances. So naturally I had to tell her about the time I wrote one in the hopes of making some money. Okay. This was a LONG time ago. Like, I think Jimmy Carter was still president and Ken and I were still living in married student housing. Not that the two facts are related.

Anyway, I can't remember too much about my novel--just that the hero was half-Gypsy and that he hardly ever wore a shirt. Also, I think he may have been a wrangler on a dude ranch in Montana, because you know how it is up there in Montana. The place is just crawling with partially clothed wranglers who are half-Gypsy.

I called the book THE DEVIL'S DUES and sent it in under the pen name "Lucinda Lawson." Yes! I know! Fancy!

The book was rejected in record time. Not only that, but I received the lowest form of rejection possible--an impersonal form letter. I was naive enough to be shocked that Harlequin--HARLEQUIN!--had not accepted my book. But what I learned from that experience is this: you should only write romances (or mysteries or fantasy or whatever) if you love romances (or mysteries or fantasy or whatever). There's no point in messing around with a genre that you don't know inside and out. Otherwise you're just a poseur.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I need your help

I want to write a column about stupid stuff dogs eat. Yes! I know! America is dying to read this one! Anyway, I'd appreciate any posts on the subject.

Meanwhile, I skipped buying a cupcake yesterday for the first time in many, many days. I felt kind of virtuous, actually. Like I could do self-denial or something. But then of course today I'm going there was a cupcake out there with my name on it. And I missed it. And where's the fun in that?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Books on my "Waiting to be Read" shelf

THE MODERN DOG by Stanley Coren
THE TOURIST by Olen Steinhauer
THE INDIAN BRIDE by Karin Fossum
THE TEMPLARS by Barbara Frale
SWEEPING UP GLASS by Carolyn D. Wall
SORCERY AND CECELIA and also THE GRAND TOUR by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
MY LIFE IN FRANCE by Julia Child
SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
DON QUIXOTE by Cervantes

Houston, we have a problem. Why do I keep buying books when I have so many I haven't read yet? I'll need many lifetimes (hopefully satisfying ones) to finish them all.