So Glad You Were Born

Today marks my hubby's 29th year of existence, and I couldn't be happier that he was born. He completes me. He makes me a better person. My life is full of smiles, laughter and fun every day because of my husband. My baby girl is half-Isaac and that's the best gift anyone could give me. I truly believe if more people were like Isaac, the world would be a MUCH better place. 

I love you honey! Happy Birthday!


Chiropractor Nightmare

My mantra since having a baby has been "It's so much easier than everyone says it is." And it has been. When babies are tiny, if you can wear them in a sling, you can do anything you used to. Your hands are free and your baby is asleep. I highly recommend a sling to anyone having a baby. It's so much more convenient than a stroller (with a stroller you have to take the elevator in the mall, find creative places to put grocery goods, etc.), but it doesn't last forever.

Andie is in the stage now (she's about 4 months) where she is too heavy for the sling, not strong enough to try the toddler position where she sits on my hip and holds herself up, and she's okay in a stroller (but, again, nowhere to put groceries). This turned into one of those moments-you-read-about-in-a-parents-magazine-that-makes-you-gasp-but-you're-convinced-would-never-happen-to-you. The other day I went to the chiropractor. My chiropractor's wife had been wanting to see Andie since I started frequenting their business when I was well into my third trimester. I brought her in in her carrier (even though I knew she didn't like long bouts in the carrier). I asked the wife if she wanted to hold Andie while I did my thing. She was more than willing. That worked for all of 5 minutes, then the screaming started. 

I was getting a high-tech scan that required I strip the top half off and put on a smock while the tech ran a magic wand with rolling balls down my spine. The wife brought Andie to see me, but that didn't help. She bounced her, she walked her, she did everything possible, but the screaming continued. I couldn't take Andie because I had to sit very still for my magic wand test. Finally, the test ended, I threw my clothes back on (missing a sleeve--I later realized), and took my baby. She was so worked up, she couldn't quiet down immediately, so I was shushing, bouncing, etc., to little avail. Finally I asked for a quiet room to nurse and gave her a quick snack that settled her down. Then, back in the carrier, I skipped my therapy and went straight for the adjustment. She sat next to me so she could semi-see me, fussed a little, but made it through my adjustment. I think the chiropractor was regretting his previous encouragement to bring the baby with me so I could see him more often (my previous excuse for not coming multiple times a week).

During checkout, she fussed and cried some more. Other patients started commenting, "Oh, that's the baby I heard." Earth swallow me now. I apologized over and again, and left as quickly as possible. Even in the car, it took me ages to get the seat clicked back in the base. Tears threatened as I realized I had become "that mom" and there was nothing I could do about it.

I have a mama's girl. If you don't catch her at the perfect time, the only person she wants to be with is me. Do they grow out of this stage or do you have to break them of it?


SCBWI Oklahoma Fall Conference

Anything is better than nothing. . .when it comes to my personal goal to write at least 15 minutes every day (even Saturdays and Sundays). Here are some of the highlights of what I learned at the SCWBI Oklahoma fall conference.

From Diane Curtis Regan's session:
Write precisely, especially for children.
Life is in the details. When you're writing a novel, the rules don't change. Cut to the chase.
Agents are eager for authors who can write novels and picture books.
On the importance and value of revising, "If I had more time, I'd write you a shorter letter" & "A successful book is not made of what's in it, but what is left out of it."--Mark Twain 
Dialogue must ring true.
Don't underestimate their desire to search for books that make them think.
Catch the reader in the first page.
Don't open a book with 1)character looking into mirror and describing self 2)character waking up and thinking about life. Begin with action.
June-August is a slow time with publishers. Submit books after September so your queries don't sit on their desk all summer and get lost in the shuffle.

From the writers' critique of first 150 words of your story:

Keep tension in every sentence, especially with picture books.
Search book titles/subjects/etc on Amazon to see how many people have already written your idea.
Start with dialogue (show, don't tell)
The first few lines at the bottom of the first page of your manuscript are the editors' first impressions. 
Change emotions to non-standard parts of the body.
"Gray" with an "a" is the American spelling

Session on picture books with Kelly Bennett:
4 Types of Picture Books: 1)Tells a story 2)Concept 3)Creative Nonfiction 4)Wordless
Board books are mainly written in-house
Picture Storybooks don't need the illustrations to tell the story. They are generally wordier.
Your writing has to be punchier and spicier because you're competing with TV.
Publishers want adventure and humor.
Picture books start with either the problem (what if. . .) or the character (who). This has to be established in the first two scenes.
Story is when change is involved. An incident is when no change is involved. Write stories, not incidents.
Major picture book mistake: too much adult in the story. Don't protect the characters; let them get in enough trouble. Picture books teach children how to cope with the world. Let the character do what you wouldn't. If your book makes you laugh, try to laugh harder. If it disgusts you, make it disgust you more. 
Today's successful books are character-driven.
Cut down to action and dialogue (consider dialogue instead of narration).
The adjectives, thoughts and emotions are for the illustrations. Keep them out of your story.
No passive voice. Use action verbs. 
The beginning and end of a picture book are almost the same thing.
All picture books have both story and a universal truth.


Writer's Conference

Saturday I went to the Oklahoma SCBWI fall conference. It was a one-day event in Chandler, OK. I'll post details of what I learned in upcoming blogs. Until then, let me just say, I was away from Andie for 10 hours--longest time so far, and I couldn't believe how much I missed her! She stayed home with Daddy, and he did an exceptional job taking care of her. I love both of them so much!



I remember where I was when I heard about the Twin Towers being hit. . .in my apartment in Koriyama, Japan. It was about ten o'clock at night, and I was getting ready for bed. My other American apartment mate, Jeff, knocked frantically on my door, danced into my apartment, turned on the TV and repeated over and over, "look, look, look!" We both stood on the tatami staring at my 10 inch (or something ridiculously small) TV and watched the towers sending up billows of smoke. He had seen the second tower hit. It was like watching a movie, especially since I was so far away. I stayed up most of the night watching the coverage, hoping for some English to squeak through here and there, and checking the Internet for any piece of news I could find to put all the pieces together. 

I didn't get the day off like so many of my friends in America, so I got up early that morning and went to school. President Bush had said, "We're closing the borders," so I felt abandoned as I walked to the teachers' lounge and only a couple of people said anything about it. The day was in slow motion. 

Japan got over it in a week. It was like it never happened. I was floored when I flew into the States for Christmas and saw the "United We Stand" posters everywhere and news anchors still covering related topics. The best word I can use to describe it is surreal.

Morning Noises

Every morning around 7:30 AM, I hear my neighbor's car door slam and they drive away. When I lived in Japan, one of my apartment mates would leave around 7 and always kick his little sidekick into reverse and it made a squealing high pitched revving sound. I always thought, "Hmm, Ben must be headed out for work now."

Do I make noises? Do my neighbors note my routines?

What noises do you make? 

Some more pix

I got a request for some pictures on my last post, so here you go. You can see even more on my facebook :)


*WARNING* Gushing to Follow

It always makes my day to read my hubby's blog and read something sweet he wrote about me. Isaac is a strong advocate of words of affirmation, and he frequently reminds me that he's in love with me and he thinks I am beautiful. My love language is quality time, so I don't do as well making sure I tell him how much I love him, so right now I am going to gush. . .

Isaac is my hero. He's the definition of self-sacrifice. Right now he's working three jobs so I can stay at home with our baby Andie. Not only does he work hard, but he tries to make sure that I'm living out my dreams. He doesn't want to ever hinder me from doing all that I can. He doesn't limit me, ever.

At times I wonder, "Do other couples really have it this good? Is it possible that someone could be as in-love as we are?" I love being married. Next to my walk with Christ, deciding to marry Isaac is the best decision I have ever made. He makes me a better person. He completes me. I can't imagine life without him.

They say "opposites attract." While one of our running lines is finding things we have in common and labeling them as "proof that we're soulmates," we are very opposite in many ways. One of the best ways is that I am way too serious and he is, well, for lack of a better word, a booger. Isaac always finds ways to make people smile. He's always cracking a joke. He can find the fun, or he can be the fun, in any situation. I truly desire that Andie takes this away from him. At times his humor has driven me crazy when I just wanted to be serious for a moment, but for the most part, it comes at exactly the right time and balances me out.  

I look forward to introducing him to other people. I'm proud of my husband. I know that when others meet him, they'll want to be his friend. He's not intimidating. He's down-to-earth and one of the most sincere guys I know.

I love this man. And he loves me with all of my flaws. Wow. I really wonder, does anyone else have it this good? I hope so. 


Hello New Life

I was in denial when people told me my life would change "drastically" after having a baby. My goal: retain social life, retain normality, don't drop off the planet and drown in raising children. I have successfully achieved that goal, but I have found a couple of glitches that can't be helped. 

Glitch 1: Date night. Yes, you can drop the baby off at grandma's so you and your hubby can still enjoy date night, but don't plan to be out too long. You can only neglect the need to feed for so long. Date nights still happen, but they are considerably shorter.

Glitch 2: Dishes. Dishes get done, but usually not until the next morning. You eat dinner, you change baby into pj's and clean diaper, you feed baby, baby goes to sleep, you tuck in hubby, you're exhausted. Dishes are for mornings now.

Other than that, for the most part, it's business as usual, and I love, love love mommyhood!


Louis Sachar

"You don't become a writer until you learn to rewrite." -Louis Sachar

My beautiful friend Hannah and I headed to the local library recently to listen to Louis Sachar address the young writers of Tulsa and present awards for the annual creative writing contest. His address focused on answering the questions most people ask him, the primary focus being, "What is your writing process?" Sachar clumsily worked through explaining his process which was about as unorganized as his speech. As Hannah said, "I enjoyed it. Once he got going, he was really good." The same follows for his writing process.

Sachar spends an hour a day writing the first draft of his book. He admitted that many times it's discouraging because he's not even convinced he's written anything worthwhile for that day. But as time goes on, the story progresses, he follows rabbit trails that lead to nowhere, and he ultimately discovers the path the story is to take. He mentioned that this could take up to a year and a half before the first draft is complete. After that, he goes back through and spends a couple hours a day doing a second draft. Then a few hours a day on the third and fourth draft until everything's complete. His philosophy is to "keep it inside you until you're done" so that you don't lose any energy while writing it. He avoids critique groups and the like. The overall process takes about two years.

As a former English teacher, my desire was for my students to follow a similar process in their writing. I wanted them to see the value of rewriting, and I wanted them to be as pleasantly surprised with their revised work as I so often am with mine. But alas, they are teenagers with busy schedules and hours upon hours to perfect a 2-stanza poem just doesn't fit into their common sense. 

I write because I have to. I rewrite because I would be cheating myself if I didn't uncover all of the hidden potential that I don't even see yet. Thank you, Louis Sachar, for sharing that message.