Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why you shouldn't post right before going to bed on the night of your birthday

Because you'll misspell the word "asparagus." You'll write down "aspergas" and know that it looks wrong somehow, so you'll go over other options in your head. You'll wonder if it's spelled "aspergus," for instance. But then you remember the guy you worked with at The King's English fifteen years ago who always said "ass-per-gas" when he talked about the vegetable, so you write down "aspergas" again and say "Yeah, that's probably right."

Then you wake us and realize you were wrong.

I don't think I'll correct it, though. Too lazy.

Monday, March 30, 2009

And a very happy birthday was had by moi

I woke up to snow--not exactly the kind of weather I would have ordered up for my birthday. But still. I had a fabulous day, filled with small pleasures. Here's a list of stuff I did.
1. Walked with Kathy long before sunrise
2. Ate tons of her chocolate marshmallow brownies
3. Drove Quinton to school and bought McDonald's for him on the way
4. Drove Geoffrey to school and bought Mcdonald's for him on the way
5. Made both boys give me hefty bites of their hash browns
6. Wore my (real) diamond earrings
7. Sprayed myself with perfume
8. Listened to Led Zeppelin, AD/DC, and Tom Jones
9. Danced in the kitchen
10. Ate more of Kathy's brownies
11. Visited with family and friends
12. Read birthday cards, e-mails and messages on my facebook wall
13. Ate Indian food with my mom
14. Ate cupcakes with my mom
15. Cut myself a hyacinth for sniffing purposes and stuck it in a tiny vase
16. Made dinner--steak, baked potatoes, steamed aspergas
17. Read funny bits to my brother Jim out of ANGLO FILES
18. Played cards
19. Danced some more (thanks for indulging me, Q!)
20. Watched an episode of MY NAME IS EARL
21. Watched Leno

What a great day!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Louise on Alzheimer's

You want an example of good writing? Visit Louise's blog and read her post on Alzheimer's. Here's the address: http://fivecrows.blogspot.com.

Meanwhile I cooked a lasagne for my mother's birthday. People ate. People raved. Alec's dog did stunts, and we all clapped. Tres gratifying!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Re settings (sort of)

My friend Louise and I have been thinking about places we wish we could have seen--Paris in the twenties, for example. Or Southern California in the forties when Orange county was filled with actual orange trees. Or my Salt Lake City neighborhood in the 1890's. Or London when Shakespeare was writing (in the spring, though--not in the winter).

Here's the place I'd really like to go--Logan in the late forties and early fifties when my Dad was playing football at USU. I remember something the late Hack Miller said in a column once--that pound for pound my dad was the "mightiest football player God ever made." I would have loved to watch him play and hear him lay a hit on someone.

Where would you like to go? And why?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

And here's what I ate

I spoke at a Relief Society meeting tonight. I was invited by my good friend DawnAnn and I'm so glad I went because the women in her ward are amazingly warm. I had such a nice time.

Also. If the RS is involved you KNOW you will get excellent food. When it comes to event cooking, Mormons totally rock the free world. I especially liked the chicken-y/mushroom-y/spinach-y/ garlic-y thing we had. It was seriously tasty.

Do this! Because you will have fun!

In her book MAKING A LITERARY LIFE, the lovely and generous-hearted Carolyn See advises writers to make a quick, un-fancy list of influential (doesn't have to be in a good way) people in their lives. See maintains that we often draw our characters from these individuals and our relationship to them. Anyway. Here's my list. I deliberately didn't include my kids in an effort to cast my net a little wider.

MY HUSBAND: Numero Uno Important Person. He looked like a hood with his thick black beard, afro and greasy sleeveless sweatshirt the summer I first noticed him. I wasn't exactly smitten--but I was interested. "Smitten" came later. "Interested" remained the same. He sent off my first manuscript to Delacorte. He made me be a writer.

MY DAD: When I was three I told him I was going to marry him some day! He was my first serious crush. When I was little he taught me how to swim and wrestle. Also, he laughed at my jokes. Who could resist?

MY MOM: She was the best-looking mom on the block and once wore rings on her toes at a party to get a rise out of the guests. She sees herself as a peacemaker. I see her as a glorious fighter, taking on all comers. Did I mention she was a rodeo queen? Not everyone can say that about their mom.

MY MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER: The single most important person to me when I was a little girl, I keep her picture by my bedside. Smothering, loving, invasive, tough, madly loyal, fiercely intelligent, infuriating--she often overrode my own mother in an attempt to be an uber-mother to us both. The last words I spoke to her in person were angry ones. Of course I didn't know then they would be the last ones. I still regret them. Bitterly.

MY YOUNGEST BROTHER: The funniest man God ever made. Period. End of story.

BECKY THOMAS: We had girl crushes on each other since we were ten. We sounded out each other on everything--boys, parents, school, religion, our bodies, our kids. She was wicked smart and like C. S. Lewis's description of his mother, she took to happiness the same way some people take to the best seat on the train. She died suddenly five years ago this spring. I still feel like only half of myself without her.

NAMELESS GUY: I was madly in love with him from grade 6 through grade 12 and he never noticed. What was so wrong with me that I couldn't get him to take a look?

MISS NELSON: My high school AP English teacher. When we were reading THE GREAT GATSBY the spring of my senior year, she made the surprising announcement in class that "men love women who smolder." I've never forgotten that.

ANNETTE ROGERS: My editor at the now defunct Utah Holiday Magazine, she taught me how to write a feature article. She tells a great story and wears pink Prada shoes that show off her slim ankles to perfection.

Your turn!

Monday, March 23, 2009

I have the best readers

Thanks, everyone, for your responses to the last post. I got LOTS of good suggestions, although I don't think I'll end up having my fifth-grade girl character wish for armpit hair. Thanks anyway, Alec.

Just back from AZ where I saw my great friend Annette Rogers, who was my editor at Utah Holiday lo those many years ago. She taught me everything I know about writing for magazines and newspapers. We had a lovely time sniffing orange blossoms and reveling in the desert sun. We did some important eating, too, including great Mexican and a salad featuring heirloom tomatoes, which are allegedly in season down south.

Now. Back to my real life. And oh yeah. SNOW.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Another question (for research purposes)

Say you're in the fifth grade and a genie grants you three wishes. What would you wish for?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Meghan and Laura (and how this relates to writing)

This is how I'm going to make Meghan McCain and Laura Ingraham relevant to my blog, which is about WRITING and not about POLITICS because I took a sacred vow to make this about WRITING and not POLITICS. Meghan keeps a blog and Laura writes a column. In other words, they're WRITERS. (See? I can make this work!)

Anyhoodle, Laura (the alleged grownup) recently called Meghan (a young adult) "fat" and Meghan told Laura to kiss her "fat" whatever. And all I can say is that the Republican party suddenly seems to be the party of skinny blond mean girls these days. What's up with that?

(I've got Meghan's back on this one--I'm kind of a fan, actually. Check her out at The Daily Beast.)

On the food front I made my kids eat corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and Irish soda bread for dinner tonight. I do this every year. And every year they hate it. Ah. Traditions. They're the glue that keeps a family together.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Help needed!

Today I'm writing a talk about female friendship and I want to examine what things get in the way of it. I'd appreciate any thoughts on the matter.

I made a salad last night from one of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks--with spinach, parmesan, pinenuts, peas and pesto (it's like Ina set herself the task of creating a dish with every "p" word she could think of, not counting spinach). Anyway. It was very good. People raved. When they asked if it was mine, I said yes and didn't tell them where I found it. Let them think Ina stole it off of me.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Spent all day in Provo yesterday at a writers' workshop run by Hyperion editor Abby Ranger. It was extremely useful. One of the things that occurred to me is that people like me (who teach workshops, too) should have the periodic experience of being workshopped themselves. It's important to be reminded of the vulnerability a person brings to a group setting like that.

Anyway. I loved meeting Abby, who is extremely bright and articulate. And I enjoyed the company of fellow writers. We talked about everything related to writing, from the success of the Twilight books to blogging. All of us were interested in Sara Zarr's recent experience of being photoshopped. Stop by her blog (www.sarazarr.com) and read her amazing post.

Good food yeserday, too. You knew I'd mention that, didn't you? Our hostess, Nancy Peterson, cooked up a storm. We ate out on the deck with a full-on view of Mt. Timp against a blazing blue sky. Heaven.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Brach's malted milk Easter eggs update

Some of you know I've written extensively on the subject of Brach's malted milk Easter eggs and why they are really the ONLY malted milk Easter egg one should consume. Anyway. They're available now at Shopko. Remember. BRACH'S.

Today I planned to put the finishing touches on my book. Only I ended up spending the afternoon with a very sad son whom I completely adore, and that absolutely felt like the right thing to do. Sometimes a manuscript can just wait, you know?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wrapping things up

So yesterday I finished up a major re-write of the novel. And I cried the whole time I wrote the ending because (don't you know) IT WAS JUST SO TOUCHING. I was behaving exactly like Kathleen Turner in ROMANCING THE STONE.

This afternoon when I re-read the final scene, I wasn't so sure. But I loved feeling brilliant for a day.

In other news, I think maybe I should stop eating cupcakes. For one thing, eating this many cupcakes can't be good for me. For another, I waste time driving around the valley, sampling. Maybe I should hire myself an intern to fetch cupcakes and tell me my endings are as good as I think they are. More on this later.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sarah Palin and stripper boots, part two

Kidding! Nothing here about Sarah Palin and stripper boots today! But, hey, I'm shooting this sweet curl for as long as it lasts.

Anyway, I wanted to talk a bit about writing until I get to the good stuff, which involves cheese toast from Sizzler's. Okay. The writing part. I can tell you truthfully that the more you write, the more you write. And (further) that if you write every day (even on weekends) the writing you HAVE to do gets a leetle easier. Not hugely easier. But still. I notice when I post blog entries every day, I feel warmed up for the big jobs ahead. So blogging. Yeah. It's a good thing.

Now for the cheese toast part. I LOVE IT. But then you would, too, if you'd spent your childhood eating Sunday dinners at Sizzler's because your dad knew someone there who would hook you all up with free meals. (He also knew people who worked at movie theaters and sporting goods stores. Dude. I had a great childhood.) At any rate, one of my kids found this recipe online. We made it for dinner and we all died from cheese toast happiness. I share it with you now.

1 lb butter, slightly softened
8 ounces parmesan cheese, Grated
Italian bread, Sliced (we used regular bread, which was fun and very Sizzler-ish, actually)

In a mixer, cream together the butter and cheese. Preheat a griddle or large frying pan on medium-high. Spread cheese mixture on bread about 1/4" thick. Place bread cheese side down on griddle. Cook until cheese has browned.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sarah Palin and stripper boots, part two

Wow! I just checked in over at the desnews website to see if my column this morning was getting any hits and yes! It is! In just a few hours there have been over 30 comments posted. For me this is unusual. Usually I only pull in a couple of public comments a week. The difference? I mentioned "Sarah Palin" and "stripper boots" in my piece.

So from now on (I will inform my editors) please mention "Sarah Palin" and "stripper boots" in my headlines, even if my column is about public education. (AS IF! I AM NOT WRITING A PUBLIC EDUCATION-TYPE COLUMN!) But whatever.

On the food front. I just sent the kids out to buy me a chili cheese dog (dude! with onions!) from Der Weinerschnitzel (probably not spelled correctly). I'll have it with a Mexican coke. Meanwhile I will make a crustless quiche with hash brown potatoes for dinner tonight. Throw in a good green salad, some roasted asparagus, a few fresh strawberries, and we'll call the dinner a healthy hit.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Another EXCELLENT high school basketball update!

So our kids wore red and black. Ken and I wore green and white. We went to the game, sat on opposite sides of the arena, and cheered loudly--all of us for West, actually. I do love me some Provo High School Bulldogs. But seriously? It was nice to see West claim some of its former athletic glory.

We went to Hires after. M-m-m-m-m-m. Crispy fries and cold root beer in a frosty mug. Life IS good.

One more thing. My uber cool son Phil (WHS '99) did the cartoon.

What publishing a novel doesn't do for you

It's been almost a year since THE LOSER'S GUIDE TO LIFE AND LOVE came out--and I've had ample opportunity to reflect on what publishing a book does and does not do for you. On the one hand, it's satisfying to see your words in print. It really is. And my hope is that all the writers I love and admire who haven't published yet will have that experience because it's a good one.

On the other hand, publishing a novel does not magically make your whole life better. It doesn't make you skinnier or more physically fit or more patient with your kids. Your teeth don't automatically get whiter and your hair more manageable. It doesn't stop bills from landing in your mailbox or library books from being overdue or parking meters from running out of minutes. Publishing doesn't make the high school stop calling you to inform you that your teenagers were tardy to or absent from one or more class periods. It doesn't make the lines at the grocery store shorter when you're in a hurry or prevent other drivers from cutting you off on the freeway. Publishing doesn't make you smarter with your money. In fact, except in very rare cases (think Stephenie Meyer), it hardly even makes you richer.

Do you catch my drift here? A writer is still Cinderella before the Fairy Godmother shows up. So the point is to live (and write!) happily in the skin you have now because, seriously, it doesn't change much even when a book comes out. And that's okay.

On the food front, today while we were eating breakfast, I asked my kids why apple slices don't taste as good as bacon. Because they don't. Not even with caramel. That's another thing publishing a novel doesn't change. Who cares if you win the Newbery? An apple slice is still just an apple slice.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mexican Coca-cola

Next to an icy cold Dr. Pepper in a can, I love me an icy cold Mexican Coca-Cola in a bottle. Don't know why it's so much better than American Coke, but it is. Anyway. I've been craving it lately, so I've been driving around the valley looking for it without much success. And then this morning I found it. On a shelf. At the Smith's. Next to my house. Dude.

This only goes to show how wise Uri Shulevitz was when he wrote one of my favorite picture books, THE TREAUSRE. He says "Sometimes one must travel far to discover what is near." Mr. Shulevitz, I call you master.

You'll notice that I was able to combine literature AND food in this post. Yes. I know. I'm a genius.

Friday, March 6, 2009

High school basketball update

So here's the cool news! My kids' alma mater beat Olympus High, and MY alma mater beat Bountiful, so TOMORROW they'll meet for the state championship. A dream come true! Not that I ever had that dream! But whatever!

It'll be good times at the E-Center for sure. I will wear green and shout GO BULLDOGS and embarrass my kids. And then I'll buy popcorn (with extra salt) at half-time. My friend Doni (PHS '74) plans to meet me there.

Dude. Life is so good.

YA lit (and raisin cookies)

Okay. I can't figure out how to create a link HERE to a recent piece in The Boston Globe called "Faith and Good Works" in which many Mormon authors (Chris Crowe, Shannon Hale, Julie Berry, Martine Leavitt, and Carol Williams) are quoted about the state of YA lit today. It's worth reading. I particularly like Shannon's take on why so many Mormons write fantasy--especially given the fact that many conservative Christians denounce it. She said our experience with angels, re-discovered scripture, and biblical literature makes us comfortable with the fantastic.

And now for the food part. I went into Backer's to buy a cupcake but walked out with a raisin cookie instead. Ah! Raisin cookies! I HEART THEM SO MUCH. And they're kind of hard to find. Why is that? Maybe because they're kind of an old-church-lady-fruit-cakey kind of cookie?

The Backer's cookie was okay--a tad too mince-meaty. The ones at Parson's Bakery in Bountiful are better. Bigger with more raisins. Sadly, though, the sugar cookie part is always too crispy. NO to crispy sugar cookies. The best raisin cookies EVER were found in the old bakery in the basement of the flagship ZCMI. Soft. Gooey. Raisin-y. M-m-m-m-m-m.

For the record, the old ZCMI also served a great hot dog. But if you wanted a good date-nut-cream-cheese sandwich, you went to Auerbach's.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Okay. I was working on the novel today and suddenly! I noticed! how often! I was using! the word suddenly!

So suddenly I began asking myself why "suddenly" had suddenly become my favorite go-to word. And I decided that I was having a hard time with transitions. Like, I didn't know exactly how to make a connection between action "A" and action "B," so I just made it all happen "suddenly."

I haven't worked through the problem yet, but at least I'm aware of it. Lesson for the day? If you're falling back on a pet word or stock phrase over and over, try to identify why you're doing it. Then begin addressing the problem.

On the food front, I ate huevos rancheros at the Blue Plate Diner with Sara of the Fetching Sweater. And they were very, very good indeed.

On the high school basketball front, Provo High School beat Highland in the state playoffs. I know because I was there. I went to watch my friend Becky's daughter (Hey, Hannah!) cheer. And all I have to say is that once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog. Go, Provo!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bryan's wife is right

Cupcakes are uber trendy. Kinda silly we're all paying big bucks for something you got at birthday parties for free. But still.

Yesterday I bought minis at Mrs. Backer's--sort of the Queen Mother of all Salt Lake bakeries. Predictably they were quite lovely--fine, light, white. The frosting was simple with sanding sugar on top. Who can quibble?

Today, on the recommendation of the fabulous Vicky MacBride (coach Ron's wife for those of you care about football), I drove out to a place on Highland Drive called So Cupcake. I came home with six minis, one of which is blue. (Hmmmm. Not sure about blue food, as a general rule). I also bought two regular red velvet cupcakes because red velvet cake was my favorite dessert as a young girl growing up in the seventies. Red velvet cake felt soooo sophisticated to me then.

Oh. In other news, I wrote.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I don't have a writing plan yet today. But I do have an eating plan. It involves cupcakes.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Creativity and gender

The visit to Studio 5 today was lots of fun. There wasn't as much time to talk about the questions (listed in my previous post) as I would have liked. So I thought I'd respond to one a day for the next week here. Feel free to jump into the conversation.

First question--"Do women have an innate desire to create?"

Okay, the subtext here (I think) is this: are women more inherently creative than men? At least that's how I understood the question. And I have to say I don't think there's much difference between the sexes on this front. I am surrounded by creative men who cartoon, blog, write, and do wood-working projects. So, in my experience, the differences break down along invidual lines rather than gender lines. I was interested in Shannon's response--that creativity in women is often labeled as "craft" rather than art. And I was interested in the remark our male host made today off camera--that women are allowed to do crafts in a way that guys aren't. He likes to scrapbook, he said. And you should see the looks on people's faces when he lets people know.

It was Cool Treats Made with Peanut Butter Day in the studio. The peanut butter desert souffle was great-looking and an interesting thought. But hmmm. Didn't care for the texture, really. On the other hand, the peanut butter pie (served, I'm told, at the Dodo) was COMPLETELY KILLER. Meanwhile I stole some rice krispies treats while no one was looking. I put them in my purse and left the building and no one stopped me.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Asking for your input

I wish I had thought of this earlier, in fact.

Here are the questions Brooke is planning to ask on Studio 5 tomorrow. Tell me how you would respond.
1. Do women have an innate desire to create?
2. Does every woman have creative potential?
3. How can we tap into our creative selves?
4. Does creativity require risks? What is the gretest risk you've taken?
5. What are the rewards?

There's also a bit on the website, asking readers to identify "creativity" triggers. What works for you?
1. magazines/books
2. browsing the internet
3. talking with others
4. family life
5. working out
6. nature/music

I plan to eat a good salad with a mustardy dressing today btw. Bacon will be involved.

KSL Studio Five

On Monday I've been invited by KSL Studio Five to sit in on a discussion of women and creativity. I think it airs at 11:00, so feel free to tune in. If you can help me develop a wardrobe concept (as my friend Lisa says) I'd appreciate it. So far I've decided to wear earrings.

I don't know what I'm going to say, however. To be perfectly honest, I haven't spent a lot of time analyzing my own creativity--really, the whole creative process is a mystery to me, too. About the only thing I can say with any certainty is that I feel better when I'm actively engaged in a project than when I'm not.

I ate a grilled shrimp taco at Rubio's yesterday. And then I drove to Emigration Market and bought a milk chocolate cake in a lovely leetle box from Emigration Market. I felt very French buying that fancy cake. So yeah. I'm just like a French woman. Only bigger.