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Friday, July 30, 2010

She Sings the Songs

"Looking on she sings the songs/ The words she knows, the tunes she hums."

This is another favorite of the three year old I teach. I started singing her Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" after she began ballet classes over a year ago, and it stuck. She can name that tune just by hearing the first couple of notes on the radio, and she does, in fact, know the words and hum the tune. As we were driving back from the art museum today, I was belting out the lyrics to this song with a three and five year old, making me feel like I was starring in my own G-rated version of "Almost Famous", my favorite movie. Minus the totally cool 70s rock band. And the Band-Aids (except for the Hello Kitty one on Riley's foot). And the writing that the lead character actually got paid for! But I digress.

Before our karaoke session in the minivan, the girls and I had a great time at the museum. All of my reservations about taking a very active and spirited preschooler to the museum were proven unnecessary. She was in awe at the size of the massive oil paintings, and was clearly impressed at the extensive collection of Tiffany glass, especially the chandeliers, which she wanted to buy. What can I say, she has expensive taste! The entire field trip lasted less than two hours, but they were filled with culture, education, and the look of wonder on children's faces that can only be described as priceless.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Splatter Painting

"I see a red door and I want to paint it black." - "Paint it Black" by The Rolling Stones

Today was splatter painting day! The girls love this art project, even though we have to do it outside in the blistering heat, which is not my favorite thing, believe me. I guess it's not too bad for them though, since they paint in their bathing suits, then rinse off in a wading pool. Why do they have to rinse off, you ask? Because by the time they have flung what is easily an entire cup of paint across the yard (with plastic spoons!) onto two very large sheets of poster paper, they are COVERED head to toe in a sea of rainbow tempera paint. It's wild, crazy, free, and they always have a blast painting the paper, and ultimately, each other. The clean up of the yard and children is a little time-consuming, but how can I say no to splatter painting when I see how happy it makes the girls? They will only be little like this for a short time, so I try to encourage their uninhibited creativity as often as possible, even if it's at the expense of my sanity! What will we do tomorrow? I am going to tackle the Chrysler Museum of Art with a three year old and a five year old. Have I completely lost my mind? I guess we'll find out tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

"If you wake up and don't want to smile/ If it takes just a little while/ Open your eyes and look at the day/ You'll see things in a different way/ Don't stop, thinking about tomorrow/ Don't stop it'll soon be here/ It'll be, better than before/ Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone." - "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac

I am trying to make these lyrics my anthem toward my as of yet nonexistent writing career. I recently came to the realization that when I started contacting agents last year, I was nowhere near ready, and neither was my work, to jump into the literary world. After months of rejections from agents and revisions on my own part, I can honestly say that both "Willow Ryan" and I are ready to be taken seriously. This past year of learning about the business, how agents work, and who I am as a writer has really been eye-opening, and now since yesterday's gone, I'm thinking about tomorrow. I have more agents to query, more research and learning to do, and much, much more writing ahead of me. I am now seeing things in a different way, and I have faith that tomorrow will be better than yesterday for my writing. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Christmas in July

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas/ Soon the bells will start/ And the thing that will make them ring/ Is the carol that you sing/ Right within your heart."

Merry Christmas in July everybody! As you may have read in my profile, I am a Christmas nut. I have been known to enjoy holiday music and movies year-round, and the children I have taught over the years have always loved my brightly colored Christmas socks that I wear all the time.

Christmas is a season of hope, joy, and love, so why only celebrate it in December? I will leave you tonight with these parting words from the book of Luke, which I feel should be remembered and honored every day of the year:

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Big Weekend

"I need a big weekend/ Kick up the dust/ Yeah a big weekend/ If you don't run, you rust."

You and me both, Tom Petty. For some reason, this has been the longest week in the history of the world. I have been feeling very stuck, and there is something very appealing about the idea of taking off, hitting the road, and just escaping for a while. Nothing but driving, listening to road trip songs, and total freedom.

Hey, wait a minute! I don't have a spontaneous bone in my body! I would have to spend weeks making plans, lists, packing... the list goes on. I guess there would just be too much work involved for me to be carefree for a whole weekend. Oh well.

Maybe, just maybe, I will have a big weekend. I might, dare I say it, have a chance to write! I know, I know, it sounds very boring, but I haven't worked on my third book in weeks, and it would feel great to get some writing accomplished. It may not be what Tom Petty had in mind when he wrote the song, but right now it sounds pretty good to me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Hunk"leberry Finn and Surfer Joe

"He went down to Huntington Beach one week/ For the annual surfers' convention meet/ He was hanging five, and walking the nose/ And when the meet was over, the trophy was Joe's."

I have given the girls I teach an appreciation for classic surf rock by the greats like The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, and The Surfaris, who sing the girls' latest favorite, "Surfer Joe". While on our way to drop Riley off at the bus stop for camp this morning, both girls were singing the song and Alana said that she wanted to go to the beach with Surfer Joe. That started an argument between the girls over who "Joe" would have more fun surfing with. They are three and five! All I could do was shake my head and try not to laugh at them.

In a couple of weeks, the girls are going camping with their family. Alana very animatedly told me that they were going berry picking and would make a pie with blueberries and "hunk"leberries! When I told her that they were actually called huckleberries, she very seriously told me that, no, they were called hunkleberries and she was going to find a very hunky one to take home! I just burst out laughing, and she rolled her eyes at me and walked away. Out of the mouths of babes...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Classic Cars and Movie Screens

"And I always dreamed/ Of classic cars and movie screens."
- "Old White Lincoln" by The Gaslight Anthem

Warm summer nights bring back fond memories for me of drive-in movies and driving home in the middle of the night across the High Desert of Southern California with thousands of glittering lights shining in the distance. I also flash back to classic car shows full of my favorites like Mustangs, Camaros, Chevelles, and GTOs. Isn't it sad that kids today have no clue what a drive-in movie is, and very few realize how totally cool a muscle car can be?

Hey, wait a minute! I was born in the 80s! I shouldn't have memories of drive-ins and muscle cars, but I do. I was fortunate enough to live in and visit places as a kid that still have some of the country's few remaining drive-in theaters, and I grew up in a family where classic cars (the louder and faster the better!) were the norm over the latest fully-loaded model.

If only I was sitting in a '65 Candy Apple Red Mustang right now, eating popcorn and laughing at some funny movie with an old metal speaker hanging on the car door...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Seals and Sting Rays and Sharks, Oh My!

"Can't you feel 'em closin' in, honey?/ Can't you feel 'em schoolin' around?/ You got fins to the left, fins to the right/ And you're the only girl in town."

Today I took the girls on a field trip to the aquarium in Virginia Beach. It was quite an adventure! Riley loved the seals and sharks, and Alana happily announced to the whole restaurant while we were eating lunch that her favorite things were the sting rays, bathrooms (don't ask!), and... the gift shop! It was pretty funny. I told the girls they could each pick out something small as a gift from me, and they both picked out stuffed seals, which, to my relief, were under $10 a piece. Whew!

It might not have been quite as fun as eating a "Cheeseburger in Paradise" or being "wasted away again in Margaritaville", but the girls had a great time and I enjoyed watching them explore the wonderful world of our oceans and bays. Our next adventure in a couple of weeks will be to the local art museum while we are studying the continent of Europe. Have any of you ever taken a three year old to an art museum? Any advice?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hot Town

"Hot town, summer in the city/ Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty/ Been down, isn't it a pity/ Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city/ All around, people looking half dead/ Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head."

It's 99 degrees, overcast, and humid. In other words, it's absolutely miserable. I spent an hour and a half this morning sitting poolside with a three year old while her sister had swim team practice. There was no breeze, no relief, just unbearable heat. Sounds fun, doesn't it?

While I was sitting in a very uncomfortable plastic chair, willing myself not to sweat, willing the wind to blow, and willing a preschooler not to start whining, "Can we go yet?", I thought of how "The Christmas Song" came to be. Apparently Mel Torme and Bob Wells came up with the song out of thin air on a hot summer day in 1944. In an effort to cool down, they started thinking of Christmas and wintry things, and "The Christmas Song" was born. I will leave you with these cool parting words.

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire/ Jack Frost nipping at your nose/ Yuletide carols being sung by a choir/ And folks dressed up like Eskimos." Feel better? I do!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rock On

"Still lookin' for that blue jean, baby queen/ Prettiest girl I ever seen/ See her shake on the movie screen, Jimmy Dean/ James Dean."

That is Alana's song. She is the three-year-old I teach. Today, the girls and I went bowling, and we heard David Essex's "Rock On" on the radio on the way there. At one point, Alana bowled a spare, and she pumped her little fists in the air, did a little dance, and yelled, "Hey kids, rock and roll! Rock on!" I burst out laughing, as did all of the adults in our area. It was too funny! She is so spirited and hilarious, and that song fits her to a tee. I wonder how many other preschoolers recognize that song (and many other classic rock songs) by the first few notes? More of Alana's favorites: "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams, "Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John, and "Paint it Black" by the Rolling Stones. As she would say, what a "totally awesome" kid!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Query Letter

"Deliver the letter/ The sooner the better."

As promised, here is a sample of my query letter where I describe the basic plot of my novel, "Willow Ryan". A query letter is sent out by an author to potential literary agents, in the hope that they will see the brilliance of your work and offer you a contract on the spot. Sounds too good to be true, right? Right... Anyway, here it is:

What would you do if you were seventeen, pregnant, and could not tell a soul? That is the position that Willow Ryan finds herself in during the summer of 1986. Unable to disclose her secret, and unwilling to give up her baby, this small town girl moves away from her Indiana home and creates a new life for herself in Santa Elena, CA. After arriving in the quaint coastal town, Willow gets a job at a boutique owned by a quirky former Southern belle named Peggy, who has a knack for finding trouble in the most unlikely places. Willow’s new neighbor, a friendly surfer dude named Denny, quickly becomes a trusted confidant, but could there be something more to their relationship than Willow sees?

Okay, what do you think? I feel that this paragraph does a pretty good job in explaining the storyline, and hopefully leaves the reader wanting more. There are more technical details of the query that I didn't include here, but that's the gist of it. What do you think? Any comments? Bring 'em on!

Silence is Golden

"Silence is golden, golden/ But my eyes still see."

Aah, naptime. It's been a busy day and I am more than ready for a break. The girls have been overly argumentative, prompting me to say things I never I thought I would say, including, "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all", "I don't like arguing", "Be nice your sister or you'll go in time out", and the ever popular, "Because I said so". I don't know what the problem was, aside from being tired, but the girls were at each other's throats, and mine.

This morning, I was told by a five-year-old that I was driving too fast and I didn't know where the library was. Seriously? I was not pleased. Then while at the library, the three-year-old informed me that I am too old to check out books, so I should just wait in the car. I informed her that adults could check out books too, and 27 is not old. That was met with an eye roll by both girls. Wow.

On the way home, I once again grew tired of hearing the girls fight, and told them no talking for five minutes. As I glanced back in the mirror of the way cool minivan that I drive at work (VERY different from my Mustang!), I saw the girls sticking their tongues out, making faces, and rolling their eyes at each other, hence the lyrics for this post. What happened to the little angels I know they can be? Maybe they will be back after naptime. One can hope!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Girls in Their Summer Clothes

"The girls in their summer clothes/ In the cool of the evening light/ The girls in their summer clothes, pass me by."

Bruce Springsteen probably didn't have wild little kids on his mind when he wrote those lyrics, but that song always makes me think of the girls I teach. These are the girls who dance instead of walk, sing instead of talk, twirl instead of run, and always have fancy dresses on. As they stampeded toward me in their frilly sundresses this morning when I arrived at their house, I couldn't help but smile. These children are the epitome of "girls in their summer clothes", at least for me.

Yesterday I wrote about an agent who requested the first chapter of my book. Well, I heard back from her already, and it's not good news. Her rejection came so quickly, I have to wonder if she even read my work. Not to sound cocky, but I know my books are good, and I know in my heart and soul that I am meant to be a writer. I will keep at it, and hopefully it will lead to somewhere fantastic...sooner rather than later. query letter for you to comment on. Maybe you could offer me some advice!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Waiting

"The waiting is the hardest part/ Every day you get one more yard/ You take it on faith, you take it to the heart/ The waiting is the hardest part."

You are so right, Tom Petty. I just emailed an agent with the requested first chapter of my novel. I have to have faith that "Willow Ryan" will one day be published, but the waiting really is the hardest part. True, I am more impatient than most people, but still. I could hear back from this agent tomorrow, or it could be two months from now. Either way, I pray it's good news.

I am still in the same place with my third novel, "Surprises: Willow Ryan Book 3", having written absolutely nothing for a couple of weeks now. How terrible! Life just keeps getting in my way, and I can think of nothing better than to hide out for a few weeks, in complete peace and solitude, and write until my imagination runs out of words. I have this fantasy of how it would be to get to write for a living, and that's part of it. I'm not a hermit though, far from it. It's just that there are days (weeks, months, years) when I don't get anything done that I feel like I need to do, and "I wanna leave this world for awhile". Hey, another Tom Petty quote! Can you tell I'm a fan?

I will end this post with the hope that next week proves to be more creative, inspirational, and fulfilling than the last, for me and all of you. Until tomorrow...

Friday, July 9, 2010

I've Always Been a Dreamer

"You know I've always been a dreamer/ (Spent my life running 'round)/ And it's so hard to change/ (Can't seem to settle down)/ But the dreams I've seen lately/ Keep on turning out, and burning out/ And turning out the same/ So put me on a highway/ And show me a sign/ And take it to the limit one more time."

The Eagles kind of sum up my experience with the world of literary agents at this point. I finished my first novel a little over a year ago and have been submitting ever since, hoping against hope that someone will be willing to take on an unpublished writer with big dreams and hopefully equally big potential. I have received a few requests for sample chapters, but nothing has panned out. I got an email from an agent requesting Chapter One yesterday, and I am excited, but with reservations. I am still dreaming... but trying to keep my head out of the clouds.

In the meantime, I am still writing, and am happy to say that in the last 16 months, I have written about 800 pages. I think that's pretty good if I do say so myself! Thanks for listening!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Teach Your Children

"Teach, your children well/ Their father's hell/ Did slowly go by/ And feed them on your dreams/ The one they picked, the one you'll know by/ Don't you ever ask them why?/ If they told you, you would cry/ So just look at them and sigh/ And know they love you."

Ah, the wise words of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. I love that song, don't you? I was thinking about that song earlier, especially the line about dreams, while I was eating lunch with the three year old I teach. We were having a very fancy tea party lunch, one of her favorite things, and naturally she wanted to blow out the candles. As the smoke was swirling around in the air, I asked her if she made a wish. She said yes, that she wished that I would win when we play animal bingo later because last time I lost. Her wish was so sweet and selfless, it almost did make me cry. I'm such a sap!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Opening lines

"I want to be a paperback writer/ Paperback writer."

Honestly, I would prefer to debut my first novel in hardcover, but beggars can't be choosers, right? Yesterday I gave you my promo pitch, so here are the first lines of "Willow Ryan":

"She had known for two months. Two long months of going to school, hanging out in the quad at lunch, and working afternoons at the Dairy Queen, pretending everything was fine."

What do you think? Is it catchy? My quest to perfect my writing continues, one line at a time. Comments are welcome!

Summertime Blues

"Sometimes I wonder what I'm a gonna do/ But there ain't no cure for the summertime blues."

Remember when you were a kid and it took forever for summer to arrive, only for it to disappear in a split second? Yeah, summer isn't like that anymore. Now it seems like the heat and humidity attack in full force by May, and the weather doesn't let up until October. Also, there's the business of not having three months off to relax, watch cartoons, and play on the swingset every day. At least I get to live vicariously through the children I take care of.

I am a teacher and nanny for two girls, ages three and five. During the school year, the oldest one goes to school full day, and the younger one goes in the mornings, then afternoons are filled with an abundace of activities that at times make my head spin. But once summer started, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, there are the day camps, swim team, and violin lessons, but for the most part, the kids get to be kids. Yea! When I see the girls swinging on their tire swing, riding their bikes, coloring picture after picture, and reading every book in sight, I flash back to the days when I loved summer and everything it stood for: freedom, relaxation, and fun, fun, fun. What happened to summers like those? I'm glad that they still exist for the kids in my life, even if my carefree summers are over.

Yes, I may have the summertime blues, but thinking about the crisp autumn days that will soon come, crunching leaves beneath my worn tennis shoes, and seeing pumpkin patches on every corner always brings a smile to my face. Anyone up for watching "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown"?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hello World!

Hello world/ here's a song that we're singing/ come on get happy!

No, I'm not a big Partridge Family fan, but I figured that was a good way to say hi for my first post.

Why start a blog? I was inspired in part by the movie Julie & Julia, and in part by my love for writing and talking. After completing two novels, I figured that this was a good venue to get my voice heard. Okay, so maybe you are wondering what my books are about? If so, fantastic! That's what I was hoping for. The series is entitled "Willow Ryan", and here's my pitch.

"Seventeen, pregnant, and on her own. An unwanted crisis, or perhaps an unexpected blessing?"

Interested yet?

While I'm waiting to be discovered and become the next Robin Jones Gunn or Melody Carlson, I work as a home school teacher/nanny. Not exactly a glamorous job, but it's rewarding. Today I discovered that three year olds can be even more insightful than I realized when we came across a dead squirrel. This little girl looked up at me, full of innocence and wonder, and said that she was sad that the squirrel wasn't alive, but happy that it was in Heaven now and not hurting. Amazing, right?

Thanks for listening!