Thursday, February 28, 2013


I used my January writer's retreat to encourage (cough cough force cough cough) myself to finish revisions on Titus and Annie.  If I finished the revisions before the retreat, then I could spend four days working on a new project.

Now its time to write a new synopsis and summary for Titus and Annie so I can get some irons back in the fire.  This was supposed to happen in February.  Meh.  Reality happens.  Even if you are writing fiction.

So . . . .

Dear Self,
If you are a good little writer and chain yourself to the desk, summing up a 100 page book into a clear erudite 1 page synopsis, you can have that nice new book you want to read with your daughter.
You can do it,

Thanks to Molly O'Neil at her blog Ten Block Walk for making me drool over Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice.  Here is the link:

My eight year old daughter doesn't like fantasy, likes mystery and is starting to write poetry.  What better book to read aloud with her than one built around Emily Dickinson's poetry.  Plus, the summary of the book is great.  I need to learn to write summaries like this: 

Eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis has been told for her entire life that her destiny is to become a poet, just like her famous namesake, Emily Dickinson. But Emily doesn't even really like poetry, and she has a secret career ambition that she suspects her English-professor mother will frown on. Then, just after discovering that it contains an important family secret, she loses the special volume of Emily Dickinson's poetry that was given to her at birth. As Emily and her friends search for the lost book in used bookstores and thrift shops all across town, Emily's understanding of destiny begins to unravel and then rewrite itself in a marvelous new way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Science Time: Crickets

Here is the promotional "verbiage" Peggy and I sent out for Sciene Time this week:  

The Science Time trunk is hopping with crickets, packed in soda bottle observation jars and ready for tomorrow.  The children will get to observe these members of the orthoptera family and learn what makes them different their cousins the grasshoppers.  We will talk about habitats and habits of crickets, look at pictures of the giant weta from New Zeland and make a model of a cricket to take home.  No live bugs will be sent home with the children.  Honest.  Cross our hearts.

Science Time supports my writer's vices:  books, paper, sharpie pens and the occasional conference.  But it also brings wonderful research tangents into my life.  This week it was the wetas from New Zealand. These crickets can be weighed in ounces!  That's a lot of bug.  With eggs, a female can weigh up to 2.5 ounces.  

Giant Weta
Even their common name provided a fun tangent.  Weta is short for Wetapunga which means God of Ugly Things in Maori.  

Hopefully I have enough fun Orthoptera information and buggy activities to override the effects of a rainy day and indoor recess. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

An Odd Set of Accomplishments

Ever list what you have done in a morning and wonder about yourself?

Rough weather last night kept us all up past our bedtime so I jollied and chivied the kids through the morning routine by singing along with random Les Mis songs off Pandora. Only I switched all the lyrics to be about coffee.

I thought my Empty Mugs and Dirty Filters rendition was spectacular.

Then I drove George Washington to school.

Next I treated myself to a new blog reader. Spent a whopping $4.99 on Reeder. My old blog reader was crashing the ipad and didn't sync to my Google account.  More reading, less cussing.  This is a good thing.

One of my New Years resolutions is to clean up my computer files. Science Time documents are scattered all over my writing folders and it takes me a few minutes to find the latest draft. Not good. I didn't clean the Augean stables but I did purge Google Drive and upload the latest WIPs . Baby steps.

I finally put the Google Drive app on the Ipad. I'm slow, I know. Just because I write on an ipad doesn't mean I'm necessarily good at all of this technology stuff. The Google Drive app excites me because now I can stop looking like a bag lady as I do the rounds of my writing bolt holes.

Last but not least, I queried. Yep. There is an iron in the fire. Titus and Annie are out in the big wide world once again.Good luck guys.

I'm off to make Thistles and Loch Ness Monsters with the World Travel kids at Lake Wylie Lutheran while torturing Peggy with my awful Scottish Brogue.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

So far so good

I am 2 1/2 days into my first "writer's retreat" and so far so good.  

Did you like meeting Alma yesterday?  How many of you want to be Alma?  I know I will be quite happy if I can scale a stockade fence when I'm her age.  Don't worry.  She's still there in all her grumpy glory.  She just doesn't get to open the story any more.  

Alma may have been toned down a bit but Ella Grace is rising to the top.  She is the youngest of four children and the little girl her mother dreamed of.  Sort of.  You can dress Ella Grace up in ribbons and bows, smocking and pinafores but you can't hold her back.  She is in kindergarten yet she can trade paint pretty well with her 4th grade brother Leo and her 3rd grade cousin Arnold. 

Chapter Three of The Stolen Swarm popped out of the printer around 10 pm last night.  

Notes for Chapter 4 fell into the bath tub around 11 pm but it's all good.  This is why an ultra fine point Sharpie is my favorite pen in the whole wide world.  

The nice perky blue Sharpie I bought yesterday and the new creature mug my sister Catherine gave me are keeping me from taking myself too seriously as buckle down and churn out the chapters.    

I have a day and a half left in my retreat and 11 chapters to go.  Let the self bribery begin!  As soon as I finish Chapter 5 I get to go Mama's Coffee House and work on chapters 6 and 7.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Writer's Retreat

Vi loves the idea of a writer's retreat.  She hates to share.
The stars aligned and I managed to get four days to myself for a writer's retreat.  Hurray!

Putting this weekend on the calendar was a great way to clear off my desk.  I finally got the Science Time trunks inventoried.  The Titus and Annie revisions are done at long last.  Now I can focus on a big task and see just what I can do with a big chunk of time.
Inventory is a Fancy Nancy Word for cleanning up.

I'm taking another run at The Stolen Swarm, Leo and Arnold and the Mysteries of the Vinyl Village.  Last night I outlined the chapters and solved the mystery.  Today I am putting flesh on the bones.  This means that some parts of my first attempt are getting savagely cut away.

My first pass at this project was too "Penderwicky."  It pains me that this is and adjective for long winded and almost purple prose because I absolutely adore the Penderwicks.  They are such a joy to read outloud to the children and I can't wait for Jeanne Birdsall to come out with the fourth book.

But the Penderwicks are not chapter books and I am trying to write chapter books.

With this second pass, I'm aiming for more something more Marty McGuire and Clementine.  The goal is to end up around 10,000 words with 14 chapters not to be more than 700 words each.

Before I delete the "Alma Introduction" forever, I feel I have to honor her and share.
My junior beekeeper inspired the story.

Enter Alma

Alma Pearson stood in the woods behind her house staring at a section of stockade fence. She was carrying a metal bucket and being careful not to spill its contents.

Alma was sure this was the way she needed to go. She just wasn't sure how a 5 foot tall woman with 75 years behind her was supposed to climb that 7 foot tall fence. Never mind the bucket in her hand. To the left and right of her were only more sections of fence in varying shades of stain, each one just as high as the next.

She snorted in frustration. Going around was not an option. That would take too long. Alma did not want to lose the trail.

“At least they put this fence in backwards,” she grumbled. “Small courtesy, that.”

Alma tucked the handle of the bucket securely into her elbow and grabbed hold of the fence as high as she could reach. This wasn't very far. Even for 5 feet tall, Alma was small but she was wiry. There wasn't much of her to haul up and over.

“Used to be folks put the pretty side of a fence facing out to the neighbors. Put your best foot forward,” she growled, even though the fence's discourteous installation was making it easier for her to climb. Three horizontal boards holding the pickets together made a rough ladder.

“Now everyone wants the best for themselves. Let the neighbors deal with the backside of things,” she puffed as she rested astride the top of the fence.

The bucket clanked and sloshed as she started down the other side. Alma swore under her breath. The bucket was almost empty but she couldn't turn back. There was no way she could climb up the smooth side of the fence.

Across the street in the Meyer's front yard, Bobo woke up from his nap with a snuffling start.

Bobo was a six year old hound dog of mixed sorts and in his world, loud metallic clanks meant food scoops plunging into buckets of kibble.

Drooling, Bobo lumbered to the end of the driveway sniffing the air. His fourth grade master Leo watched.

“Where you going Bobo?” Leo dribbled a basketball, waiting to see what his four legged best friend would do next.

“Hey, look.” Leo's cousin Arnold pointed to the house across the street. An old lady in baggy overalls was closing the gate to the neighbors backyard.

Leo looked. He had never seen the woman before but this wasn't such a big deal.

He and Arnold lived in the same neighborhood, Worthington Flats, but his house was on another street. So even though Leo had been more time at his cousin Arnold's house lately, he didn't know everyone on the street.

Leo looked at Bobo to see if he should be concerned. He considered his dog to be an excellent judge of character.

Bobo didn't care. He was already asleep again, sprawled on his side at the end of the driveway. No food means no eating which means more napping. Bobo's life was simple. He hadn't even bothered to wander back to his spot in the grass.

“So?” Leo shrugged and passed the ball to Arnold. “Want to play Around the World or HORSE?”

“Whatever,” Arnold bounced the ball back to Leo without looking. Not only was the person across the street a stranger, she was starting to act strange.

The woman stood in front of the gate with the bucket at her feet and her hands on her hips like she was expecting something. She was staring straight at the boys yet she did not seem to notice them. There was something else she was looking for. She must have found it because suddenly she snatched up her bucket and walked out into the front yard.

“What do you think she is doing?” asked Arnold.

Leo stopped dribbling and turned his attention to the old woman. Now she was standing in the neighbors lawn just looking off into space. She grunted at something, grabbed the bucket and marched right towards the boys.

Arnold gulped. He was in third grade but still, he was glad Leo was here. This was the type of strange that starts to get scary.

Bobo lifted his head up hopefully when the bucket clattered down in front of the Meyers' mailbox.

Alma noticed the dog.

“Don't even think about it,” she growled at him.

Bobo sighed and put his head down on his paws.

“Good dog,” Alma nodded at him. She knew dogs.

“Excuse me?” Leo was the older of the cousins and, having two big brothers, he was also the bolder. “What are you doing?”

Now Alma noticed the boys. She blew a half snort half sigh before answering. She was better with dogs than children.

“I'm lining bees,” she snapped.

A bee flew up to her bucket and hovered around the rim. When the bee flew off, Alma followed with her bucket.

“Why?” asked Arnold when she put the bucket down near the tree in his front yard.

“Never you mind.” Alma kept her eyes on the bee. If she didn't look at them, maybe the boys would go away.

“What does that mean?” challenged Leo. No one blew off his cousin.

“It means . . . Leave me alone and I'll be on my way.”

“No,” persisted Arnold. “What does lining bees mean?”

Alma gave the boys her best withering look. The little one looked away but the tall one held her gaze. That meant she had to answer him.

“It means,” she spat reluctantly, “that someone stole my bees.”

With that she made her halting way up the street.
My bees bearding on a hot day.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Yes, the cat clinging to the window screen is a mea culpa for falling behind on the blog. It's been so long I feel the need to reintroduce myself.

Welcome to the Garden of Good Intentions.  

I live with a husband, a son, a daughter, a beagle brained German shepherd mutt, three cats, one lonely fish in a large tank, seven turtles and two preying mantis oothecas soon to hatch.

I used to work in the cataloging department of a university library, covet dishes and sell fun kitchen gadgets at a Mom and Pop William's and Sonoma type store and teach Composition and Humanities courses at the University of Central Florida.

Now, when I'm not herding cats and parenting two kids 8 and 10, I write for elementary aged kids.  

At the moment, I have three main works in progress.  

Titus and Annie is a chapter book about two precocious only children, 3rd grade and Kindergarden. They are a lot of fun and if you scroll through some of the older blog entries you can see pictures of the characters drawn by my talented sister Catherine Gurri.

I'm almost done with the latest revisions so look forward to muttered and veiled comments about being in the throes of the query process.

The Stolen Swarm is another chapter book featuring Leo and Arnold, 3rd and 4th grade detectives who run around solving mysteries in their vinyl village.

This project stalled out for a while until I heard some great advice at SCBWI Carolinas. If you're not sure about the point of view in a project, try switching it. I put the first two chapters into first person and the text started to sing. Awkward moments melted and the pace quickened. Can't wait to roll up my sleeves and finish the first draft.

My latest WIP is a picture book, The Papalote Magico, I am ghost writing for Rosalia Torres Weiner, a wonderful muralist and co founder of Project Art Aid. She has more irons in the fire than I do. The book is to be a companion to her Papalote Project workshops that bring art therapy and understanding to children who have suffered a loss due to deportation.  Learn more at

I finished the first draft of Papalote Magico yesterday. Tomorrow I meet with Rosalia to story board the illustrations and liposuction 1000 or so words out of the text.

Rosalia and I met at Mama's Coffee House. Eli said I needed to meet Rosalia because we should write a book together. Boy was she right. Always listen to Mama.

Queen City Soup voting tokens. 
Through Rosalia, I joined Project Art Aid, a non profit organization dedicated to community service through the arts. According to the PAA website, I am their Director of Communications and one of the organizers for PAA's microgrant program, Queen City Soup. However, I prefer "Word Nerd" or "Props Department."

This is me, at the moment. Who knows what 2013 will bring.

One of my New Years Resolutions is to formalize my blog a bit more. For now this means I'm going to sign off each time with a list of the books on my night stand. Feel free to chime in with what your reading.

From the Nightstand:
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King
There's A Boy In The Girls Bathroom by Louis Sachar
Salamandastron by Brian Jacques
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Marty Maguire Digs Worms! by Kate Messner  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year

It was a great Winter Break but gosh I'm glad the kids are back in school today.  Time to make coffee and get to work.