Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What Jane Austen and John Grisham have in common

I sat down the other night and watched the second half of The Pelican Brief. (I had meant to watch the whole thing, but the DVD I had only had the second half on it, and that was entertaining enough for me in the end.) I enjoyed watching this utterly satisfying relationship between reporter and informant, how vicariously safe it feels to have someone totally on her side, willing to believe her, able to back her up.

And when it was over, I realized that this reporter reminded me of the Aunt and Uncle in Pride and Prejudice, and Admiral and Mrs. Croft in Persuasion. I realized that Grisham puts his characters both in physical peril and emotional peril, but Austen's characters are also often in emotional peril; she is one of the best authors I know at writing emotionally unsafe families.

And, in the end, they get away; they end up safe. SO satisfying. Not quite sure, yet, what I can learn and apply to my own writing, but it was nice to be able to figure this little thing out.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

So small it's ridiculous

I've been keeping this new year's resolution since January, JANUARY did you hear me? And it's the middle of July, and I've missed exactly one week since I started, and that was the week of girls' camp when I was gone for five days and came back and slept for two more.

And the goal is: write for ten minutes per week, per project. Which is twenty minutes total. That's the basic goal; that's the one I've only missed exactly once this whole time.

It is SUCH a ridiculously small goal that I have been pretty embarrassed to tell anyone about it-- and yet, it has brought me so much happiness that I've sort of not been able to help myself.

Thus, my new rule of thumb: if a goal is so small that it's embarrassing, but is still not happening in my life yet, that is a great candidate for a goal for me. Ridiculous.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Just, you know, some news

A little news. I'm easing back in to this.

One of the toddler nephews carries a postcard around with him at all times. Mom (my mom, his grandma) says that it has a picture of a cityscape on it, she thinks. She found a birthday card for his younger sister, with some pretty butterflies, and sure enough, she now carries hers around, too.

In Primary yesterday (Primary is Mormonspeak for Junior Sunday School), we learned that one of our new adult leaders loves to eat Beef Wellington. None of us (except her) knew what it was, but she explained, and it sounded yummy, and the teacher ended by telling the children that maybe they could ask their parents to fix it for them. One of the four-year-olds' mother teaches the three-year-olds, and right then and there leaned forward and asked her mom if her mom would fix it for her. Her mom turned around and came right back with, "Does this mean you are willing to try new foods?"

And I found out that Dad used to have a grownup to sit by him in Primary. THAT was interesting. It means, at the very least, that my brother came by his hyperactive ways honestly, but it also adds more evidence (like I needed any; I'm pretty biased at this point) that children with extra energy can turn out very well indeed. :)

About this picture: I have no idea if it looks like the card Mom gave to my niece or not, but it WOULD  be a cute card for a two-year-old, would it not?

Friday, January 15, 2016


excellent playmates.

I am the queen
and you are the king;
you say sit here
and I sit.

And in class
my little girl
does not want to write

So I say:
I will not look
and then I feign surprise;
she is so delighted
we do it again for the next one.

cook breakfast
enforce rules
read stories
make UP stories
wipe away tears
sing you to sleep
and when you are gone

they weep
and weep
and weep.

Aunties do not keep their babies.
We always send them home.
We know our limits

When you are mine
I am all yours
but always you must go
always I must be a wanderer

Always I have no home
when there is no small soul to anchor it

Thursday, January 7, 2016


It is much easier to write about successes than failures. *sigh*

But-- in the interest of not leaving you hanging-- I thought I would mention: the novel draft I finished last summer turns out to be something I can't bring myself to revise as yet. I keep saying that it's because it is so horrible that I can't bring myself to look at it, but that is only partly true. The other part is that I'm genuinely not sure I can fix it, and the thought of first teaching myself how to fix it, and then doing so, is kind of exhausting.

I remember one Sunday last summer, after I'd gotten in a 3,000-word-day the day before. Such a hot day! I took refuge in a basement hallway, where it so happened that instead of being a shirker, I was able to be a helper. Our ward's Elder's Quorum President and Relief Society President (if memory serves) were using baby wipes (supplied by the EQP; our RSP is single) to wet the edges of envelopes which contained invitations to the ward barbecue being held later that week. As we worked, I talked about how I had always sort of seen marriage as something that would take enormous amounts of work, and at times be very frustrating, but that the end result could be incredibly rewarding. The EQP agreed, and of course I always like it when people agree with me. But-- I went on-- the part I was not expecting was how eerily well my relationship with writing would fit this description: lots of hard work, occasionally very frustrating, worth it in the end.

All of which is to say that I've recently re-committed to my relationship to serious writing. To me, this means writing with intent to publish, and doing so every day. The decision makes me feel flail-y, and vulnerable, and terrified-- and also hopeful, and strong, and alive. I still have no idea how to fix that stupid novel; I still feel like my focus is basically nonexistent (am I a fiction writer or nonfiction? Focus on children or on grownups? Long-form or short form? And the questions go on...). But: it's the year of living dangerously, as it were. How many rejection letters can I collect? Can I make enough money from publication to buy a lunch out? Could I make more? It's time to find out. (*sigh*)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Memories of Papa (and childhood, when I was a little girl in Idaho)

I am very small. For whatever reason, I am spending the day with Dad in "the Shop"-- that's what my family called Plants West Floral, the business my parents ran for approximately the first decade of my life. It is lunchtime, and we are in the kitchen part of the shop-- the building was converted from a house my grandparents had once owned, so the part the customers came in is in front, but there is still a fully functioning kitchen in the back. Dad opens a can of ravioli and puts the can in some water in a crockpot, double-boiler style. I ask Dad what the ravioli is-- I'm somewhat unfamiliar with the concept of a food which can be eaten straight from a can (my mother cooks everything from scratch when we are at home.) He explains as best he can; I try it; canned ravioli becomes one of my favorite foods. Not that I got to eat it very often-- I didn't-- but to this day, I LOVE over-cooked pasta, and I'm pretty sure that this warm emotional association has something to do with that fact.

I remember other rooms in the Shop; I remember the huge (probably not that big, but I was little then) bathroom, which had not only a toilet and a sink but a large, claw-footed bathtub, in which at least once, maybe more than once, Dad bedded me down in for a nap. He laid a quilt in the bottom, and then went to help me hop in. Looking back, I'm sure that the other rooms were too loud for a kid to fall asleep in, and this was his solution to that. I am, again, surprised-- you can't sleep in a bathtub! I say-- but he points out that if there is no water in it, you most certainly can, and I do. And yes, I love claw-footed bathtubs now, too.

(Kiiiind of like the tub in this picture, but no curtain or showering apparatus, and the floor was green linoleum. In my memory, the bathroom is always dimly lit, which may have something to do with the fact that my memories seem to mostly have to do with sleeping there.)

Perhaps it was during one of these naps that I noticed some green-and-yellow wallpaper in the corner. Later on, at Christmas, we received a wooden kitchen playset which had been covered in that same paper. I had such a believing heart-- I still do, gets me in trouble sometimes-- that as soon as I had pointed out to my parents that the wallpaper on our new toys was the same I had seen in the bathroom, I immediately came to the conclusion, in wonderment, that somehow Santa had come into our shop in order to get the wallpaper to make our kitchen set nice.

One example of how being such a credulous kid got me into trouble: once I started the first grade (I was a kindergarten dropout-- another story for another day) I would stand outside at recess and look at the sky in wonder, thinking about how strange it was that the sky looked so real, and how much it felt like I really was outside. You see, when I learned the Pledge of Allegiance, I had learned (or thought I had learned) that we were one nation, underground, invisible, with liberty and justice for all. Being as how the Cold War was still on at that time, and my parents had explained a little bit about our enemies and the threat of nuclear war, I assumed that our nation had been moved underground so as to BE invisible, but I was truly astounded by the magnificent paint job which they had done, so very much like a real sky would look.

Last memory. I've always been a bit of an early bird, and this morning, I wake up and find my father messing with his camera in the living room. I ask him about it, and he explains a little bit about aperture, and film speed, and how at this time of day, you can get some nice silhouettes. He asks me if he can take my picture, and I say yes, and that picture is still around, in 2015, in my files. If I get around to it, I'll try to scan it so that I can at least send it to interested parties.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I Love My Job

I really love my job. I would keep it forever, if only they would pay me enough that I didn't have to live with my mother. They would actually be paying me that much if I were a "real teacher" instead of a paraeducator, but the thing is, I kind of love being a paraeducator-- I love not having to write tests, or grade tests, or give homework, or grade homework, or very most of all, turn grades in. OR turn in lesson plans.

Anyway. I hope you get a glimpse of why my job is so fun...

The students described in the exchange below are sixth-graders. Seventh-graders generally find grown-ups to be below their notice unless one does something truly spectacular.

Student: Ms. P, are you savage?
Myself: Am I what?
Student: Savage.
Myself, in slightly exaggerated but not totally fake shock: That is not a polite question!
Several students jump in now, explaining that "savage" means "cool."
Myself: Nope.
Student: But you seem cool.
Myself: It's an illusion.
Student: But--
Myself: It's an illusion.

Eventually I'll stop posting about compliments to myself. Perhaps I should post  just one more first, though, so that there will be an odd number. :)