Friday, April 30, 2010


I've enjoyed reading your comments about yesterday's post, and I think we can all agree that Lucinda hit a grand slam with her list, which is very witty and also wise. I especially liked her idea of having a life. It reminded me of a film from the 80's called CROSS CREEK, starring Mary Steenburgen (I loved her) as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings who wrote THE YEARLING.

Anyway. Marjorie wants to escape to a quiet life in Florida so she can write, but THE PEOPLE THERE JUST WON'T LEAVE HER ALONE. They keep infringing on her writing time. They keep dragging her back into the land of the living. And then one day she realizes that STORIES are found in the land of the living, not just in the life of the mind. THE YEARLING grows out of that important realization.

We all fantasize about holing up and devoting ourselves to that novel inside of us. And little periods of holing up now and then are great. But to do it forever?

Not a good thing for a writer.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rules for righteous writers

Feeling like the brain gas is pretty low today. Just picked up THE POCKET MUSE by Monica Wood in hopes of getting the tank topped off. I landed on this page and think it's a good one and so here I am sharing. Thanks, Monica Wood!

1. Don't wait for inspiration; establish a writing habit.
2. Take time off.
3. Read voraciously.
4. Shut out the inner critic.
5. Claim a space.
6. Claim some time.
7. Accept rejection.
8. Expect success.
9. Live fully.
10. Wish others well.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The new me?

I came to my office this morning with a pen, a notebook, a calendar, and the fervent hope to get a handle on my life. Because you can do that with a pen, a notebook, and a calendar, right? You just have to sit there and generate goals and lists without being interrupted by Democratic candidates canvassing the neighborhood and ringing your doorbell because your son is a delegate and they want to talk to him and voila! You've got your new life all planned out!

So that's what I've been doing for an hour or so now, which is why Sara just popped her head in here and asked how my new life looks. And I told her, "A lot like my old one, actually."

What I think is interesting about this story is my touching faith in the power of paper and pen to make everything all better.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


That's the title of the book I just read--NEMESIS by Jo Nesbo, another new star in the constellation of Scandinavian Noir writers. This book has gotten a lot of positive buzz, and I liked it . . . fine. But toward the end I had to knock back a couple of Dramamine because there were SO many twists and turns and also twists. The book left me dizzy and vaguely carsick, you know?

Here's what I find myself wishing for--a book written by a man who's also a woman. Or a woman who's also a man. Here's why. Thrillers written by men are often heavy on the exterior action thing. Thrillers written by women frequently emphasize an interior action. Why can't I get a book that does both? LeCarre's early books did this. And then they didn't. Who knows why? Maybe he got sick of being a man/woman.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A trip down Memory Lane

I-80 = Memory Lane. WHO KNEW? But all those drives to CA came roaring back to me . . . and in surprising, happy ways. For instance, I remembered the first place I ever ate breaded shrimp was in Winnemucca. So I made Ken pull over and treat me to dinner in a casino coffee shop where dude! I had breaded shrimp!

I also remembered that Winnemucca was the home of America's First Magic Toilets. At least according to our dad. One of the places we used to stop had foot flushers (which we failed to notice), so whenever Dad gave those toilets the verbal command to flush, they did! Because he secretly stepped on the foot flusher! And his children were too stupid to notice!

The Open House was grand. I nearly overdosed on cakes. Overdosing on cakes isn't a bad way to get out of this life, though, all things considered.

Friday, April 23, 2010

California, here we come

Ken and I are taking off in a minute for Fremont CA where we will enjoy attending an open house for our newly married boy and his bride. Julie's mother asked with concern if I'd ever driven across Nevada before because as everyone knows you can fly to Mars and back in the time it takes you to drive across Nevada via I-80.

I told her yes. I'm very, very, VERY familiar with this drive. As some of you know, my dad used to take me and my brothers once a year to his dentist buddy who lived in Walnut Creek. Devan did our teeth for free on Sunday afternoons under a single naked light bulb. Every now and then he would say, "You. Spit now." That was our cue to hang our heads over a sink with non-running water and spit out whatever had collected in our throats. And then it was back under the single naked light bulb for another go around.

At least that's how I remember it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Back to the Future

Today Geoff and I had tacos at Rubios. Sitting next to us was a VERY beautiful well-dressed young mother with her adorable toddler son. As they prepared to leave I pointed to me and Geoff and said to her, "This is you twenty years from now." And then because I didn't want to scare her unnecessarily, I said, "Only you'll probably have cuter clothes."

She laughed. And then she looked at me. I mean really REALLY looked at me as though I were her own crystal ball. And I, of course, looked at her, filled with remembrance of small boys past.

"It goes fast, doesn't it?" she said finally. Gently. And I nodded.

Later, on the drive home, I cried a little, thinking of all of the craziness sweet and sad she has in front of her and how, in a heartbeat, I would take it all on again.

Only with cuter clothes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Well played, WJHS

Spent part of the day at West Jordan High judging a poetry slam, and may I say I think that school has a really nice vibe? And may I also say students who get up and read their poems in front of fellow students are brave and fabulous? I would have marched into the nearest bathroom and given myself a swirly before doing that in high school.

On a related note, walking through the cafeteria on the way to the auditorium reminded me again of how terrifying adolescence can be. I felt fourteen again. Except that now I have stretch marks.

Congratulations to Amy and Andria and the English faculty at WJHS for sponsoring such a terrific event.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Everything that's sick and wrong (but also so very right) about America in 7 words

Red velvet cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.

It's too BIG! It's too ridiculously loaded with calories! It's sort of a disturbing concept, not unlike coffee-flavored yogurt! It's insanely expensive for a single dessert! It wears a scarlet letter "E" for "Excess" on its ample bosom!

But oh my. The people (nod here to Lisa B.). It's just so very damn good. You can ask my mom, too. She'll vouch. The two of us had some for lunch today.

Monday, April 19, 2010

More reading for boys

I just finished BOOM! by Mark Haddon of CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG . . . fame (I can never get that title right). Anyway. There's no doubt that Haddon can write for both children and young adults. And I completely adored his adult novel A SPOT OF BOTHER (be warned, though--there are graphic bits). But BOOM! is pretty disappointing. It's a middle-grade novel for boys, based on an earlier middle-grade novel Haddon wrote that went in and out of print pretty quickly. The premise is this: two friends begin to suspect that several of their teachers are aliens. Real ones.

The first half is terrific--funny and snappy and yes. I wanted to find out what happens. But the second half of the novel fell flat for me, although it's possible that young boys might like the wack-a-doo humor. I could be wrong about this, but it feels like Haddon sort of wrote himself into a corner and didn't know how to get out of it. I've done that myself. A lot, actually.

For Hamburger Club this weekend we went to Best Burger in North Salt Lake, which is my Brother the Doctor's fave joint. I liked it. The best thing was the fry sauce which had a smoky taste and bouquet.

I know. It's a problem when I start talking about fry sauce as though it's a wine.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Defining Cafe Rio

For those of you who don't know, Cafe Rio is a local Mexican Grill along the lines of Chipotle or Barbacoa. Unlike more traditional Mexican fare, Cafe Rio food is notable for its fresh, bright flavors.

Anyway. I parked in the Cafe Rio parking lot yesterday, so I have Cafe Rio on the brain, including this observation: females (especially young ones) ADORE Cafe Rio, especially the salads with tomatillo dressing on the side. But I have to say I have never met a guy who would make Cafe Rio his first choice. Dude. Where are the refried beans swimming in melted cheese and manteca?

Still, they go. They go a lot with girlfriends and sisters and sometimes even moms, thus making Cafe Rio the perfect restaurant for women and the men who love them.

Am I wrong about this?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sarah DeFord Williams . . .

. . . another of our fine Utah authors, will be reading from and signing her new middle-grade novel PALACE BEAUTIFUL at TKE (15th and 15th in Salt Lake) this Saturday at 2:00. I'll be working. Also swooning because Sarah is so talented and also has this dynamite sassy haircut.

See you there? I hope!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It's Wednesday?

Not only haven't I blogged all week, I haven't even written a column. WHICH WAS DUE MONDAY. What's my deal? (Answer: I don't know what my deal is.)

So. Anyway. I better get busy. But before I do I want to mention a book I read this weekend called THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA by Tom Angleberger (I almost said Origami Yoga there--another bit of evidence to support the idea my brain is not firing on all its pistons today). Anyway. It's a terrific middle-grade novel for boys (and maybe even girls, too). It's about a clueless boy named Dwight who never gets any attention from peers until he starts wearing a "magic" paper puppet on his finger.

The chapters are "case studies" written by different kids whose problems are somehow solved by Yoda (or solved by Yoda they were). It's very funny. And sweet. And I'm buying copies for me and my nephews.

But first a column I have to write. And a cupcake I must eat.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What I don't require from my bank tellers


I had to take the deposit from the store to the bank yesterday and the whole time she was counting out the cash, my teller (v. cute young girl) kept asking me questions such as what I wanted to do this weekend. I could barely answer, so frozen with fear was I that she'd miscount the money.

I know these young people today can multi-task like crazy. But as an old person who can't use her TV remote unless a teenage son is present to do it for her, I would find it comforting if tellers just counted my money instead of connecting as a human being with me.

On the food front, I have decided that my husband and I are going to have a Hamburger Club. Every Friday night, we're gonna try a new place. And I'm gonna make up special little membership cards and invent a secret Hamburger Club Language and buy us some special de-coder rings. We ate at Smash Burger last night. I liked the special fries a lot.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What I'm reading now

I read the real PINOCCHIO by Carlo Collodi so you won't have to. You're welcome! Mostly I read it for my book group--I knew my funny friend Chris Decker was the reviewer and I wanted to support her. You're welcome, Chris! It's not very much like the Disney movie. For one thing, no one's wearing clothes from Switzerland. DUDE! THESE ARE ITALIANS! Also, Pinocchio takes off his shoe and smashes the talking cricket with it. So long, Jiminy!

Here's what I did like--Pinocchio's ADHD-ness and random-ness. He really is kinda like a little B.O.Y. on that front.

Yesterday I read Gary Paulsen's new book set during the Revolutionary War called WOODS RUNNER. I haven't read a book by Paulsen since I heard him speak a few summers ago--he loves to cultivate a salty old sea dog affect and so it was easy for me to forget that, in truth, he writes quite lyrically. I liked the book--the non-fiction bits more than the fictional pieces, actually.

Now I'm reading EMILY THE STRANGE which is a graphic novel/novel for YA readers. It's all goth-y and hip but kinda fun in a really weird way.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

So the next time . . .

. . . I go to the store to buy toilet paper, will you remind me to buy toilet paper? And not a twelve-pack of Scott paper towels disguised as toilet paper?

Imagine my shock when I took out a roll today.

I have a history of doing this, actually. When we lived in Helsinki, I took the bus into town to buy a package of 100 disposable diapers. But I accidentally came home with a package of 100 sanitary napkins. Which were HUGE btw. Which I found disturbing.
Almost as disturbing as the fact that i went into town to buy a package of 100 disposable diapers but accidentally came home with a package of 100 Finnish sanitary napkins instead.

Not that this has a thing to do with writing anything.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Semi-homemade and fully scary

This past weekend I read a blog post by someone who attempted to cook an actual meal from recipes created by Sandra Lee, the doyenne of that cooking (I use the term loosely here) show "Semi-homemade." Predictably the food was super gross and I had to laugh because it reminded me of my own semi-homemade-with-Sandra-Lee experience wherein I tried to make a cake in my crock pot.

Which, right there, should have tipped me off to what lay ahead. There are a lot of things on a religious front I don't understand, but I do know that God didn't invent crock pots in which to bake a cake. He already gave us ovens for that.

Anyway. The recipe whereof I speak called for yellow cake mix, a can of cherry pie filling, and oatmeal for the topping. (Brown sugar may have been involved, but I honestly don't think so.) I wondered at the time how that could possibly be good, but I was intrigued because sometimes really unlikely combinations turn out to be surprisingly great. And even though I am in the middle of writing a snotty post about Sandra Lee, I'm not much of a food snob. I'm sort of like the Statue of Liberty when it comes to food, in fact. Bring your poor huddled masses (of food) to me because I welcome them all with my big old Statue of Liberty arms.


I threw all that stuff in my crock pot, just like Sandra told me to and WOW. It turned out to be this sticky, gooey, non-cakey thing with bits of dry oatmeal on the top. It was completely inedible.

And here's the thing. It didn't save me any money. And it barely saved me any time. And what's the point of cooking something like that?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The kind of parents we are

Last night I made the sons at home (one's 20, the other's 16) dye Easter eggs. Today my husband made them hunt for eggs in the snow.

Yes! That's us! Torturing offspring since 1980!

On the food front we had a yummy brunch with pancakes, bacon, almond bread loaf, hash browns, egg and cheese casserole, and oj. Such a feast.

Hope your Easter is filled with tender insights and excellent food.

Friday, April 2, 2010

It must be said

For my birthday this week, my mother (the woman who wanted me to wear a blinking light thing on my head) gave me the best chocolate cake I have ever eaten ever EVER. It was chocolate with chocolate frosting, so right there we know happiness lies ahead. BUT. Rather than being a decadence-type cake, it was just a rich moist dense old-fashioned-type of cake. Probably the kind those characters ate for dessert on Sunday in that movie POLLYANNA. Anyway. She bought it at Magleby's in Provo. And people I would drive to Provo just for that cake. I would WALK to Provo for that cake. I would walk BACKWARDS to Provo for that cake. I would walk backwards WEARING A BLINKING LIGHT THING ON MY HEAD to Provo for that cake.

In other news, I think I know what's been bothering me about the book I've been working on. More than an issue of not knowing what it's about--many of you rightly suggested that often we don't know while we're writing a first draft--I had the sense that the audience (YA male) I had in mind wouldn't be interested. And I'm pretty sure I'm right about that. But it occurred to me young YA girls might be interested in the story. So I'm going to switch narrators.

Yes. I know. Clever me.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An unexpected development

For years now I've written about my family--first as a columnist for PARENT EXPRESS, now as a columnist for the D-News. I've never felt an ounce of compunction about this, although as my kids got older and I understood that they were really and truly human beings in their own right, I stopped using their names. Still, I wrote about them. And my husband. And my brothers. And my parents. ESPECIALLY my mother who was born to be a character because she. is. just. so. vivid.

Anyway. I wrote a piece about her this week for Monday's paper, based on a conversation wherein she told me I should buy a blinking light thing and wear it on my head so I won't get hit by a car in the morning when Kathy and I walk. The image of a blinking light thing on my head sort of undid me, so I sat down, dashed off the column and e-mailed it in.

Then. I woke up this morning and wondered if my mom's feelings might be hurt. Will she think I'm making fun of her and her infamous ability to IMMEDIATELY whip up a worst case scenario involving homicidal milk trucks and blinking light things? So I called her for the first time EVER and read it to her and she laughed (a little) (also politely) AND then said, "I didn't say blinking light thing. I said reflector."

Only she didn't.

Whatever. I just think it's odd that after all these years I'm starting to worry about what my family thinks. I mentioned this to my mother who said, "You're afraid that one day we're all gonna start writing about YOU, Missy."

See? I told you she belongs in a book.