Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Books on Tape

. . . as we used to say in the Olden Days.

Anyway.  I've talked about how useful I think listening to audio books can be for writers.  Listening--at least for me--helps me understand things like pacing, creating suspense, setting a scene.  I recommend.

The only requirement I have is that my reader has a British accent of some kind--especially if the book is set in Britain.  Or actually anywhere abroad.  I'll never forget my disappointment when I started listening to Pillars of the Earth--A NOVEL ABOUT CATHEDRAL BUILDING IN ENGLAND, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE--and the narrator sounded like that guy who used to narrate those nature films on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom with his flat midwestern accent.


A flat midwestern accent might be okay as background noise for footage of cheetahs preying on gazelles.  But that's about it.

Again anyway.  Right now I'm listening to some Scottish Noir--a novel called The Complaints by Ian Rankin--and thankfully the narrator is Scottish.  He reminds me of the cab driver we had last summer in Glasgow who told us that most Americans think, "my accent is dead sexy."

And you know what?  It totally, totally was.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Barbara Williams, author and friend

This weekend while we were on the road, I thought a lot about my friend Bea Williams.  Not sure why she was on my mind, but there it is.   I kept thinking about how generous she always was with young writers like me (back when I was young) and wondered if she knew what a force for good she'd been in our writing community, especially now that she is no longer writing and lives in a retirement center.

I made a vow to call her this week and check in.

Just heard from a mutual friend, Emma Lou Thayne, who told me Bea has passed. The last time I saw both Bea and Emma Lou, we had lunch together in the dining room where Bea resided.  Bea told us (with great enthusiasm) about a young artist named Aklane who paints pictures of Jesus.  Bea called Barnes and Noble as we spoke and had them deliver two copies of Aklane's book right then and there so that Emma Lou and I could take them home with us.

I was surprised for a number of reasons by Bea's interest in the artist.  But I gratefully accepted the gift. Just as I gratefully accepted and continue to acknowledge all the many gifts she shared with so many of us over the years.

Thank you, Bea.  RIP.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Home again, home again

We just got home from a quick trip down south, where we hiked to Calf Creek Falls, ate a fine lamb burger in Boulder,  and said hey to some of our favorite hoodoos in Goblin Valley.  Throw some perfect weather into the mix, and you cannot get a better weekend going than that.

I will say this:  our bed at the inn right near the mouth of Capitol Reef left a little to be desired.  For one thing, it was small.  A double.  Which feels especially tiny if you're used to a king.  The thing about a king (for good or bad) is that you feel like you're sleeping on separate continents--one of you is sleeping in North America, for instance, while the other is sawing logs in South America.  Also, the mattress was lumpy.  A bed like that makes you glad to be home on a Sunday night, watching The Good Wife, and that's a good thing.

Otherwise how could you stand to leave behind miles and miles of red rock and sky?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fast and furious

This week's column, involving fast cars and fear.

Thanks for your kind anniversary wishes!

Friday, April 26, 2013

April 26--many moons ago

Even though Ken Cannon and I went to the same grade school and possibly played kissing tag at recess, I don't remember meeting him until we wound up at Provo High School together.   The first time I saw him, he was sitting at the end of a dark hall wearing a torn up sweatshirt looking too cool for school.  He had lots of dark facial hair and a wild perm.  Only I didn't know it was a perm then.  But whatever.  I am cool with guys and perms.  In fact, my brother had a perm once.  TRQ gave it to him one Sunday night when he was twelve years old before we went on a long road trip, which meant we all had to sit there in a station wagon and smell his hair for awhile.  Although that's not the point.

The point is this:  I thought he (Ken Cannon, not my brother) was cute.  But possibly a bad boy.  A cute bad boy in a ripped up sweatshirt who could certainly NEVER be interested in someone like me.

Little did I know that we'd be walking down the aisle together a few years later on April 26, l977.  That's right.  It's our anniversary today.

Happy Anniversary, Ken Cannon.  You're the best.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A look I might wish to re-think

A little while ago I realized that I'm starting to fade.  Literally.  That's what happens when you age--everything about you just gets a whiter shade of pale.  So I started wearing eye makeup again so that people will still see me waiting to check out a book at the circ desk or sitting there on the pew at church or standing at the counter to order hamburgers (current fave:  Crown Burger).  It would suck not to get a Crown Burger because the people who work there can't see me anymore.

Okay.  Good call, right?  Except that because I'm me, I'm kinda only half-aware of what I'm throwing into the shopping cart.  I need some eyeliner?  Okay.  Fine.  Whatever.  This one'll do.

And that, folks, is how I buy my makeup.

Anyway, before leaving the house this morning, I grabbed one of the newer eyeliner stick thingys floating around in the drawer--(I like that image btw:  like my eyeliner is floating around in my drawer on a little innertube with a beach umbrella while sipping a Mai Tai)--and quickly applied some color to my face.

Then Ken Cannon got a look at me.

KC:   Wait.  What did you do to your eyes?

ME:  Used some eyeliner.  You know.  Like I did when we were in high school.

KC:  But your eyes.  They're glittering.

ME:  They always glitter since I had the cataracts removed and the doctor put Hubble Telescopes in my eyeballs so I can see Mars from my house.  Cyborg eyes are awesome!

KC:  It's not that.  Your makeup is glittering.

So I checked myself in my mirror, and he was right.  This eyeliner that I barely paid attention to when I a) bought it and b) applied it, is blue.  And it glitters.  So now I look like a cast member of Cats.

And the worst part?  It's waterproof.

Which makes a PERMANENT cast member of Cats, obv.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to Have Fun with a Granddaughter

1.  Pick her up first thing in the morning.
2.  Yes, it's true the sight of you makes her WAIL.
3.  But you know that 5 minutes after the two of you take off she'll be fine.
4.  Okay.  10 minutes.
5.  Go to the library.
6.  Ride the glass elevator to the top floor.
7.  Go outside onto the roof and look at the mountains.
8.  Notice "silly flowers" growing on roof top garden.
9.  Ride the glass elevator to the lobby.
10. Join other kids for story time.
11.  Chase bubbles.
12.  Make a frog hat.
13.  Go to McDonald's and hang with two little redheads wearing pink tutus in the playroom.
14.  Go home and make cookies.
15.  Eat dough.
16.  Lots of it.
17.  Watch TV.
18.  Play with Polly Pockets.
19.  Wonder silently why Polly Pockets have so many damn shoes.
20.  Tell her it's time to go home.
21.  Smile with satisfaction when she says she doesn't want to leave . . .

That's how you do it, Folks.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hey, ya'll! It's a non-fiction writing retreat this summer!

So, I am teaching at two very different conferences this summer--WIFYR and (see above) the Solstice Writing Retreat.

I'm looking forward to this one, because it's different than what I normally do.  The emphasis is on crafting non-fiction.  Dean Hughes, the organizer and criminal mastermind behind this endeavor, has asked me to teach a section devoted to column-writing and blogging.

Okay.  Everybody knows that there's no Pioneer Woman or Dooce stuff going on here.  My blog is a bare-bones, non-revenue-generating enterprise.  But I find that for me at least, the processes involved in writing a column and keeping a blog are intertwined in very satisfying and useful (!) ways.  It will be a pleasure to explore those processes (for me, for you) in a workshop setting.

Think about joining us this July in beautiful Midway.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pop quiz!

I've started running in Liberty Park again where I have ample opportunity to observe dogs and their owners, and while I know we shouldn't make broad sweeping generalizations about our fellow human beings--even if we want to--it does seem to me that certain people choose certain dogs.

So who do you think the typical pit bull owner is?

Did you say white women in their twenties?  Because you'd be right if you did.

This is where I am right now, and I am surprised

Last night I dreamed that I was with a toddler son who was being very naughty in a restaurant.  The woman sitting next to me complained, so I took the boy out into a hallway and hugged and hugged him, because apparently I love naughty little boys.

Anyway.  I woke up in a melancholy mood, because the dream got at something that's been just below the surface with me awhile, which is this:  I am at loose ends.

I never thought that I defined myself as a mother.  Sure, I had five busy boys, but I was busy with other things, too--teaching, writing, bookselling.  In fact, I used to fantasize about the life I have now--a life where I have room to breathe.

However!  That life had purpose just by its very structure.  I HAD to feed and dress and manage five little people.  It was often boring, but it had to be done, and I knew it, and I did it.  Mostly.  Except for that time all my kids went to the doctor's not wearing underwear.

Right now, though, I feel like a lot of what I do doesn't matter much.  It's weird.  I'm surprised by how very displaced I feel.

I'll figure it out.

But still.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

What we did this weekend

Here I am, trying very hard to look badass in a Nascar jumpsuit.

Here I am, trying very hard to look badass in a Nascar jumpsuit and helmet.

Here's Ken Cannon, trying very hard to look like Tevye  getting ready to sing "If I Were a Rich Man" while wearing a Nascar jumpsuit and helmet.

After all the posing was done, Don the Ragin' Cajun took us for a 160 mph spin around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  And it was awesome.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Best headline of the day

Look what my brother Jimmy found in USA Today--a story with the headline "New app helps Icelanders avoid accidental incest."

I'm sure that Icelanders everywhere are heaving sighs of relief.  I can only imagine them saying to one another, "Isn't technology wonderful?"  Except in Icelandic, of course.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thoughts about Boston

This week's column!

Wrote it yesterday, e-mailed it to Editress Lisa late last night, found it online this afternoon.

More tomorrow . . .

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

House of Cards vs. The Americans

So my husband and I have been watching these two series.

DISCLAIMER!  I could not, in good conscience, feel okay about recommending either of these to my kids OR my parents.  Just so you know.  Although it's possible TRQ might secretly enjoy them both.

Anyway,  both shows make me fairly queasy (thanks for that apt word, Lisa B).   House of Cards, however, is a lot harder for me to watch than The Russians (oops!  I mean The Americans!), even though the second show is much more graphic (violence!  sex!)  than the first.

Why is it harder to watch?  Ken Cannon and I were discussing this amongst ourselves this morning.   I think the answer (in part) is this:  House of Cards is deeply, deeply cynical with characters who aren't merely flawed but who are, instead, completely amoral and driven only by a lust for power and/or revenge.  The characters in The Americans, on the other hand, are more shaded, and all of them--the Russians AND the Americans--believe in something bigger than themselves.  I guess I find that easier to connect with.

For the record, both series are intelligent with great production values.

Have you been watching?  I'd like your thoughts on either/both series.

P.S.  House of Cards is based on an older BBC production, which was just as evil but considerably more charming.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Just that kind of day

It's been a low, low, loooooooooow energy-type day.  Not sure why.  The weather probably has something to do with it.  And also.  Boston.  Oy.

I crawled down to Provo.  Saw my parents.  Saw my injured niece (see x-ray in previous post).  Crawled back to Salt Lake--where I believe I will sit by my fireplace, read a detective novel, watch TV and not move for the rest of the night.

Meanwhile, as Kornheiser says on PTI, "We're out of time, we'll try to do better next time."

Monday, April 15, 2013

Except here's something I DO take personally

You know how last week I was all blah blah blah I don't take things personally anymore?

Well, I do.  THE WEATHER, YOU GUYS.  I take the weather personally.  And while this is totally not fair in any way, shape, or form, I hold Ken Cannon responsible for it.  Dude loves winter.  Snow.  Rain.  Coolness.  Mist.  Moistness.  The gray.   FREAKING FINLAND.

But when it's summer, he suffers.  Generally not in silence.  Although I must be clear that one of the things I love most about him is the fact that he lives completely out loud, so I am not criticizing him for complaining about the heat.  It's just that in Utah we only have the unbearable heat for maybe six weeks.  He only has to complain for six weeks.

Whereas, look outside your window right now and you will see what we have a good part of the year here.  I rest my case.

And so, yes,  I'm grumpy.

And I have been in a fighting mood ever since I woke up to skiffs of snow on the road on this, the ides of April.

And Ken Cannon was way nice to me even though I told him it's all his fault that we have days like this.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I dreamed a dream

Last night I had a dream that was so upsetting to me that I don't think I'll share the details here.

However.  It did make me reflect on the way I dream, which is always in symbols.  Really, really OBVIOUS symbols.  Like, if you paid a scriptwriter to write my dreams for me, you would just have to snort in disgust and say, "Really?  We gave you good money to come up with this?"

My favorite example of this is the dream I had when we had our hands full with boy stuff going on at our house.  I dreamed that I was called to be a BOY SCOUT LEADER.  And that I had to rough it WITH A BUNCH OF BOYS up in the mountains.  And that one of my tasks was to ride a bike UPHILL ON A NARROW HANDRAIL.  And I kept saying, "IT'S SO HARD TO RIDE THIS BIKE IN MY BOY SCOUT LEADER UNIFORM UPHILL."  And at night when I ate in the mess hall, the cooks kept piling my plate high with meat.  Lots and lots of meat.  And I kept pleading with them to stop, saying, "YOU GUYS!  STOP!  MY PLATE IS TOO FULL!"

See what I mean about the obvious symbol?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I went to the store to buy milk . . .

and I accidentally bought these instead.

Why do I have such a profound attraction to Garden Kitsch?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Toe Shoes

This is what I bought today:

1.  black leotard
2.  tights
3.  ballet slippers

I bought these today because I want to start taking ballet lessons again so that maybe I can realize my dream of wearing toe shoes.  Which is a dream I had when I was fourteen.  But then I went to high school and got busy.  And also I had weak ankles.  So I eventually abandoned the dance lessons and concentrated on having crushes on unattainable boys and wrecking my dad's VW every now and then instead.

Seriously, I am an old lady now who does NOT look so very cute in that black leotard thing I bought.  But ballet lessons is on my To Do list--the one I drew up when I was on that cruise in France with my parents a few years ago where it occurred to me that if I wanted to do anything physical, I ought to get busy while my pins were still good enough to hold me upright.  Hence the walk across England.  And the marathon.  Now ballet lessons.

Who knows?  I might only last a few lessons.  But at least I'm gonna try.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fifty Shades of Grey--right here, right now

So here's this week's column.  I believe these two posts today put me back on the "blogging-away-every-day-of-2013" track.

That right there . . .

. . . is my niece's broken ankle.  Her husband sent me that picture last night.  Not her best angle right now, I think we can all agree.

It's a bad break.  She slipped on a patch of black ice yesterday morning when she was out running, and THIS is how the Universe rewarded her desire to be all fit and healthy.  The Universe, I have discovered, has a very dark sense of humor.

Anyway.  I'm thinking of her as she goes into surgery today.  I'm also reminded of my broken wrist days which were far more trying than I would have expected, the lasting legacy of which is that I still use my left hand more than my right hand, even though I am allegedly right-handed.

Good luck, Doll.  We love you.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Toiling away

This is how books get written.  By toiling.

I find I suffer from the same misapprehension that less experienced writers do--i.e., that someone somewhere out there is having a super easy go at it when it comes to writing.

Take sci fi and fantasy writers, for example.  Most of those people are just so . . . verbal.  I always feel like they roll out of bed and knock off a manuscript or two by lunch time.  How great would that be, I always moan.  To be a fantasy writer who writes two books a day!

And yet when I'm honest with myself, I'm guessing that writing is no easier for fellow Utah authors like Jessica Day George and Shannon Hale.   Or James Dashner.  Although I have to say that James, at least, makes it look effortless.


No more moaning.  Writing is . . . often hard.  And that's the bottom line.

Back to work, everybody.    We can do this!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Led Zeppelin

The other day at work (I've been picking up a few shifts at TKE this month) I told Aaron about the time I almost saw Led Zeppelin perform.

Okay.  First.  You have to know that Led Zeppelin for me is the Holy Grail of Rock Bands.  Always has been.  Always will be.  When I was being treated for depression shortly after 9/11, my shrink suggested I try a little music therapy to lift my spirits, and I promptly went out that day and bought every cd I was missing from my collection.

I'm better now.

Clearly it worked.

So, anyway, LZ played Salt Lake in 1973.  At the time I was hanging out a lot with a high school guy friend who shall remain nameless because I know he appreciates being left nameless.  Especially when I tell this story.  Suffice it to say, there was no romance involved.  He had a serious girlfriend, and I was seriously committed to not being serious with anyone.  It was a friendship.  We made each laugh a lot.

But you know how these things can be--suddenly all When Harry Met Sally-ish.  One day he woke up thinking he might--you know--like me and therefore he'd ask me to go to the LZ concert with him.  He approached me with fear and trepidation in the library during lunch that very day, and . . . apparently I said or did something that scared him back into just wanting to be friends.  Meanwhile he took someone else.  Someone else who eventually became his wife.

He confessed all of this to me later, and all I could do was weep and wail and put on a little sack-of-ashcloth skirt.  It would have been kinder to have kept this secret from me then to make me live for DECADES EVER AFTER KNOWING I MISSED OUT ON LED.

Ah.  The roads not taken.

Monday, April 8, 2013

I'm gonna take Lisa B at her word

. . . and make up for those two lost blog posts (see previous post).

Anyway, I'm babysitting the granddaughter today, which (among other things) involved me picking her up from her dance class (aka "twirling and stomping" lesson, as he mother says).   Long story short, the granddaughter wasn't happy to see me walk through the door.  She wanted her mom, and I just wasn't gonna cut it with her.  So she flung herself on the ground and commenced tragic crying.

The young teacher swung into action and told me not to "take it personally."  I thought this was very kind of her, and yes.  It made me smile.  Because at my advanced age I have NOT had any experience with unhappy pre-schoolers.

I never take children's fits personally.  And, in fact, I don't take a lot of things personally anymore.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe I've just gotten older?  Or stupider?  Or tone deaf-er?  Or tired-er?   Who knows?  (Although I'd like to hear your thoughts on why this has happened.)

All I can say is this:  not taking things personally is much less exhausting than taking everything personally.   I recommend it.

I just realized . . .

I didn't blog on Saturday OR Sunday.  THERE GOES MY DREAM OF BLOGGING EVERY SINGLE DAY IN 2013.

And here's the scary part.  I didn't even realize it until just now.  Blogging every day has been totally at the forefront of my mind.  And then suddenly it wasn't.  I find this . . . disturbing.  How did I forget?  Especially when I've been so diligent?   I was blogging daily down in St. George when I was sick, for heaven's sake, because I ate an entire key lime pie by myself!

Okay.  If there's anything I learned during my days at Weight Watchers, it's this--you can get back on the wagon and forgive yourself for accidentally eating that pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream (or entire key lime pie) when you were feeling desperate about your life.

So yes.  Back on the wagon.

Friday, April 5, 2013


Here's one of the advantages of blogging regularly--I can take a post and turn it into a column.    I don't always do this, but sometimes when I'm running on empty, I can review what I've written here and then do a little re-purposing.

Hope your weekend is a good one!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

So maybe that's what's going on . . .

I've been so forgetful lately.  Like, I'm just screwing up right and left.  Leaving things all over this valley.  Blowing off appointments.  Double-booking myself.  (The worst so far is that I accepted a speaking engagement here in the valley, while I'm also supposed to be in Las Vegas.  Can I clone me so I can be in two places at once?  Or would that merely double the problem of me being me, spreading my own brand of chaos wherever I touch down?)

Also.  I haven't been sleeping.  I finally got up last night at 3:00 after hours of not falling asleep, and I've been awake ever since.

I was complaining about all of this to Jan at the bookstore (I've picked up a few shifts this week) and she asked if I were stressed out about anything.  Because you know how stress is.  It can make you forgetful.  And tired.  And not able to sleep, which only makes you more tired.  Which is why you say yes to speaking engagements when you're supposed to be eating Cuban food with your brother at that restaurant right next to the Precious Slut Tattoo Parlor in Vegas?

I said what me?  Stressed?  Not really.

But then I looked at certain parts of my life and went oh yeah.  I am.  Like, I really, really,  REALLY am.

How is it we can see so clearly what's going on in other people's lives?  But not always our own?

Oh, Life.  Aren't you just the mysterious one?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Today I went to hear my rock star friend Lisa B give the distinguished faculty lecture at SLCC.  I should cap those--Distinguished!  Faculty!  Lecture!

You guys, she did such a good job.  If you'd been there, you would have been sitting on the edges of your seats because she was so interesting and thoughtful AND she had cool, cool computer graphics going on.  Also, she looked sensational.  YES TO YELLOW SCARVES, LISA B!   OWN THEM!

Lisa B talked about narrative--what it is, what it does--and how narrative informs structures (like argument or critical analysis) that are often viewed as the antithesis of narrative.   And as she spoke I realized that the main way I process this world is through stories.  Mine.  Other people's.  I mean it's the way I understand everything.

Lately I've been wondering what the point of a column like mine is--all I do is tell these tiny tales about my ordinary life and WHY SHOULD ANYONE HAVE TO READ THOSE ANYWAY?  What Lisa's talk (in part) reminded me of today is that stories help us understand.

I needed to hear that.

Thank you, Lisa B!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Writing and Illustrating for Children--the 2013 edition

Okay, kids, I've been involved with this conference for a number of years now, and may I just say that if I'd gone to this when I was first starting out, I would have saved myself a lot of time and possibly grief, although maybe not grief, because like all writers I cannot stay away from the grief trough, because there's such excellent material to be found at the grief trough!  Thank you, grief trough!

But whatever.

It's an outstanding conference.

Think about joining us, okay?

Monday, April 1, 2013

TRQ and Possibly My Least Favorite Holiday

This doesn't apply to Easter.  I love Easter.  But April Fool's Day?  Not so much.  This is due to TRQ.  She owes me some serious therapy time.

Here's the deal.  She went all cray-cray on April 1.  Like, you were afraid to open doors because you figured a bucket of water would suddenly drop on your head.  She dyed our food green, loosened caps on salt shakers and put dry dog food in our shoes, because nothing says, "HEY, KIDS!  YOUR MAMA LOVES YOU!"  like dry dog food in your shoes.

And the worst part was that I could never ever get her back, because she was always on high cray-cray alert on April 1.  No sir you were NOT running any smack past her on 4/1.  She was the one and only 4/1 smack-runner in our family.

Except for that one day when we were all grown up and my dad was still coaching and I called her to ask if she'd turned on the news yet.


I heard the fear in her voice, because back in the day we all feared being blindsided (not in a Sandra Bullock movie kind of way) by radio reports, as in YOUR DAD HAS BEEN FIRED, etc.

"It's bad news," I said.  "They're talking about it on KSL."

"What happened?"

"Six starters got busted by the cops.  They'll probably be suspended.  There goes next season."

I could hear her rend her clothing.  Or whatever it was they did in the Bible when someone got bad news.

"April Fool's!"  I said.

Big, big, unnaturally and also scary big pause.

"You are a perfect little shit," she finally said.  And then she hung up on me.

Best compliment TRQ ever game me.