Mars Needs Moms and more…

I can’t help it! I have to blog one more time before I go to Vegas.

Last night, on my Mother’s Day date (perfect: excellent Thai food, an hour in Borders, and a Star Trek movie filled with eye candy for Moms) I bought two — count ’em! — two hardcover picture books. Full price. All you authors out there, I know you’re loving this.

I couldn’t stop myself. Once you sit in Borders laughing your head off, then crying… you buy those books. (Actually, they kind of ask you to buy them once you cry onto the pages. Weird, huh? Tear stains just add character, I say.)

What books, you may be wondering? For laughing, it was Walter the Farting Dog Goes on a Cruise.
No, I don’t have the other Walter books, but I knew my kids would love the cruise one just as much as I did.

Now, the perfect book for Mother’s Day, for a Mom with sons, is the one that made me cry. Twice. Berkeley Breathed’s Mars Needs Moms.

Of course, you’re gonna go all “Velveteen Rabbit” (or is that “I Love You Forever?”) trying to read it to your kids, but it’s worth it.

So, with that, go to a bookstore, and buy a book or two! And if you get the Mars one, buy a box of tissues as well.

What Happens in Las Vegas…

When I was a little girl, whenever anyone mentioned the words “Las Vegas” around my grandma, she would practically spit out the words, “Trashy town! Trashy people!”
I asked her when she had been to Vegas. She acted like I had asked when she had been a hooker.
“Las Vegas?! I would NEVER go to Las Vegas. Trashy town!” Yadayada.

So when I took Grandma to lunch yesterday for an early Mother’s Day, I didn’t bother to tell her I was going to Vegas on Monday.
Wouldn’t want her to die of shame, right? I mean , she’s 89. The shock could kill her.

And no, I’m not going to gamble. I “lose” enough just submitting my work! So, I’ll be back in a while, ready to post about the den of vice and depravity that will be my home for the next few days….

Hey! One piece of news! I was invited to write a “Kids Cooking”-type column for a new e-zine. I’ll link to the first issue when it happens, which should be in August. Of course, I wrote it with my own special brand of humor….

Idea Factory Time Again

I read a book on creativity a while back, a borrowed one, unfortunately, or I would be able to remember who said that an artist/writer needed to “go for a long walk, and every day, and alone.”
For me, that’s it: how I prime my pump. I can’t go with anyone, not even my dogs. I have to go every day, or I lose the momentum of my imagining.

Yesterday and today, the walk resulted in a story, called “The Outside Music,” which I very much like, even in its rough first draft state. I haven’t read anything exactly like it, and I made it to fit Texas and the American South, so it may be “marketable.” Sigh. I hate thinking of the market when I’m writing, it seems so much like preparing your toddler for a rigged beauty pageant.

But there’s enough saleswoman left in me to know it’s necessary.

Maybe someday it won’t be that way. Pleasant dreams!

(Oh! I did have an idea for an MG or chapter book today about a kid magician who keeps doing tricks that go very wrong and very right! He cuts his brother in half, and can’t get him back together, etc. I think I’ll play with it this weekend. My oldest son has more than enough magic books and tricks for research!)

Here’s a teaser from today’s story, the first few lines — poetic, though lacking references to local flora/fauna:

Once there was a boy who could do something very unusual —
He could be still. Completely still.
And when he was perfectly still, he could listen.
And when he listened, he could hear the music of the Outside.

Unwriting

I don’t mind editing. In fact, I kind of like it, in the way that I like vacuuming: not at all before the fact, but it’s very refreshing to look around afterward and think what a nice clean house you have! Until the kids get off the bus, that is.

I woke up this morning and wondered which project I should work on today. A quick email from the editor at Texas Co-op Power solved that dilemma for me! My essay should (may, might, etc.) be in the September edition, but I need to provide a shortened version. Wait for it…. from 1,500 words down to 900.
(Maniacal laughter on this end.)
So, it’s less like plastic surgery, and a bit more like amputation. “Hold still, this won’t hurt for very long… I just have to cut the heart out.”

No complaining, though. I can’t wait to see this essay in print!
Gotta go chop chop now.
Nikki

My Favorite Lines… This Week!

Happy Monday!

You know there’s nothing like a really long really meandering sermon to get the creative neurons firing! I had an idea yesterday — yes, during the sermon –for another PB. I wrote the first draft this morning. I don’t know what the Spirit is doing, but recently I’ve been writing this lyrical, poetic stuff, in between jags of snarky middle-grade humor — and I LOVE IT!

Although I won’t post the entire manuscripts here, I thought I would give you a teaser. Email me if you would like to see the full text.

My favorite line from The Treasure Nest (today’s draft):

She built it out of twigs and ribbons, peacock feathers and candy wrappers,
buttons from her favorite winter coat, and gleaming silver tape.

My favorite line from Shadow Dance:

“I remember dancing the salsa in a crowd on the streets of San Juan, my arms like streamers before me, my legs so long they stretched into the ocean.
But that is not the tango.”

From “Once Upon A Duhhhh”:

But the next night was the same. His Mom tried to tell one of his favorites, the story about Drew and the Amazing Albatross from Alba, but all that came out was “the Amazing Duhhhhhh.”

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming… and revisions for me (oh, joy).

Peace!

ParentWise:Austin Essay out today!

Hi!

Check out my essay in this month’s Parentwise:Austin magazine! The essays are lovely, so take some time and read them all.

Good Friends

I’m having a friend over today. I would like to say I entertain often because I’m social, and I enjoy my friends’ company, but the truth is I would just as soon meet them for a cup of coffee at Thyme and Dough.

The truth? I invite people over when my house is getting so messy I can’t find things, and the dog hair is piled up in clumps like snowdrifts.

Of course, cleaning takes away from my writing time (grrrr), but when I can’t see the monitor for the dust, it’s probably a good call. Ack! What’s this? Crumbs in my keyboard, rotten little kids…. oh, wait. I think I did that, too.

I think there’s an essay in here somewhere, about generational sloppiness. Given that I once invited my brother over to my house to help boil my dishes clean, I think I have adequate “platform” for this!

I have been very sad today. I found out that a close friend of mine — we met when we were 11, and stayed friends through graduate school! — died in late February. I didn’t know until last night. Her name was Melanie Wilkinson, and she had a voice like cream, a laugh louder than thunder, and was one of the kindest souls we had here. She never made fun of anyone, and she had this way of seeing the good in everything that made you want to try that, too. I sang with her through high school, but I missed her Master’s recital at Texas State University. I was out of town. My brother went, and said it was exquisite. I am sure it was.

I wish I could hear Melanie sing again, and then make her laugh just for the fun of seeing her happy.One of her co-workers said it was like a light went out when she was gone. I wish they could know that she was always like that, from the time she was a little girl. She was always a light to everyone around her.

Let Your Light Shine, Melanie!

Stuttering to Myself

What a marvelous, strange day! I had the great opportunity to hear Jeannette Walls, the author of
The Glass Castle (now moved to number one on my nightstand list, right after I finish Elizabeth Bunce’s A Curse Dark As Gold) speak at a Caritas fundraiser in Austin. My husband Dave was the official photographer, and I volunteered as well. They put me in with the group in charge of selling the artwork done by a support group of formerly homeless women. Of course, I don’t think they knew I did this professionally for years (selling art glass across Texas and Louisiana when I was young and sales rep material)! I have to say, we sold a lot. One piece to me! It’s painted on a skinny cabinet door, very cool. Found art.
Now to the stuttering. For the first time in… ever… I had an idea come together for a story that made me stop, break into a cold sweat, and think “Can I do this?”
I mean, really. I was freaking out, wondering if I could make this fabulous idea rest on the page, retaining its inital impulse and shape.
I have the first draft done. I don’t know if I captured it all, but I tried.
And, for the first time in… ever… it’s not humorous. It’s a picture book where all the main characters are shadows, at night, when they are free to relax and play. It combines my love for Latin dancing with my love for grandmothers. Gosh. I hope I can refine it, and find a home for it someday.

Ups and Downs

First off, let’s get this straight: I love writing. I am happier now than I have ever been in my life (well, maybe except for that first year or two of teaching music at Memorial Primary in New Braunfels. I remember lying in bed thinking, ‘Can I get up now?’ because I couldn’t wait to get to work. Wait, I do that some days now, too!) even though, so far, I have lost money as a writer this year! Every little check that comes in is more than offset by the conference fees, supplies, etc. Bah! Who cares. As long as my sweet husband continues to bankroll me, it’s all good.
But some days are harder than others! Take today, for instance. I worked all afternoon on a piece I thought was awesome, and my best friend came home from work and was like … “Meh.”
You know when you can’t get your head cheerleader to shake his pom-poms, you might need to work on a different project.
So, if anyone is interested in reading a slightly dark, boy-version of Pinkalicious — where boys eat their toys and suffer slightly horrible fates — email me. Especially if you pretend it’s fabulous, Newbery-quality literature.
So, how do I get out of the dumps? I read that gorgeous letter John Graves wrote me when I won the John Graves Writing Competition in 1998 (ahem, yes once upon a time, I gained glory and even made money writing, real money that I spent on… I can’t remember.) complimenting my “perceptive eye” and all sorts of other things.
Yep, it’s taped up there, right next to my favorite poem in the world, which ends with these lines
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
I hope you are doing something that gets you up in the morning, full of spark and ready to change your corner of the world!

The Kindness of Strangers

So… what a strange weekend so far! I wonder what will happen at church on Sunday. (I’m giving the children’s sermon, and you know that means all bets are off. It could devolve into utter chaos!)
I had the strangest thing happen — strange-nice, not strange-creepy — yesterday. A very lovely and talented writer (whose name I won’t mention until she gives me permission!) emailed me. She had found my blog, noticed my whining for an agent, and very sweetly offered to read my manuscript and send it to her agent, if she liked it. I know there are no guarantees that she or her agent will like it, but the thought of such kindness and generosity with her time, her skill, and her professional contacts… Wow!
This is random, too — as I was reading her writing samples on her website, I noticed that she was writing a MG book for girls, and that every time one of the girls said “OMG” she presented it as “OMGosh”. Now, the reason I mention this is because I have been thinking about the expression “OMG” for a week or two, and how much I hate it that everyone uses this expression so casually. I mean, it is the Lord’s name right? Even though I’m an ex-youth director (whose youth had to pay a quarter every time they cussed or took His name in vain), I still get this weird little tic in my eye when I see this written.
So there’s this lovely writer out there, who somehow noticed me, and she happens to care about the “OMG” issue.
How cool is that?
Now I’m off to revise a PB or two. More later this week — I’m expecting a lot of news on my submissions in the next two weeks or so.