Friday, November 30, 2012

Someone already said it better...

I've been thinking a lot about the importance of making the best use of our time... I was considering writing a post on the topic--but my genius husband beat me to it. Once again, our brains are operating on frighteningly similar wavelengths. Yeah, it's kinda like the Twilight Zone the way he always knows what I'm thinking.
Now I better get to work before he accidentally steals any of my plot ideas.
You can read his post here--and have a great, productive weekend!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where's the Wrench?

I've resisted for a long time, but have finally given in to the addictive, gorgeous drop into history that is Downton Abbey. Mark and I finished watching the first season yesterday, and I think I can say fairly that he is just as hooked as I am.
While the often soap opera-worthy complications can cause a giggle or eye roll from time to time, it's made us look at our own stories with new eyes and ask ourselves a question:
Are there sections in the book where everything is going along too smoothly? If so, you need to throw in a wrench. You can find plenty of examples throughout the show's scenes...though I would avoid certain of them, personally--like, say, the random dead man.
And thus I justify my hopeless addiction as a writing exercise....
For you other abbey addicts--what's your favorite part of the show?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Catching Up

So, I wanted to have a MMGM post for you today about this:

I'm loving it and totally fascinated by the confident narrative voice and odious yet lovable (I know, right?) main character.

But I haven't finished it yet.

I am also behind on:
Homemade Christmas presents
Word count for my own writing
Projects I told Lucy we would work on together

So I'm going to go make a triage plan and get some of those done....

In the meantime, have any of you read The Cavendish Home...? What did you think?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


by Joyce Kilmer

The roar of the world is in my ears.
Thank God for the roar of the world!
Thank God for the mighty tide of fears
Against me always hurled!
Thank God for the bitter and ceaseless strife,
And the sting of His chastening rod!
Thank God for the stress and the pain of life,
And Oh, thank God for God!

I'm sure I've posted this poem before, but I need to remind myself of its truths at least once a year. This has been a hard year in a lot of ways, but so often the things that seem the worst hide enormous blessings...and even when the full plot is kept secret from us, we are never alone.

I am so, so grateful for the friends and family who have been so selfless in their love of us and truly given us a glimpse of God's own love. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

The Return from the Harvest, by Bouguereau

Friday, November 16, 2012

Le Repos

Wednesday, we visited the Cleveland Museum of Art, where I spent about five minutes staring at this stunning painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau:

Le Repos (Rest)
This has always been one of my favorites, but I was never able to see it in person before. Once again, I'm left daydreaming about From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Don't you wish you could live in a museum?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WRiTE Club! Play-offs!

A few months ago now, I blogged about participating in DL Hammons' WRiTE Club writing contest. I've been following the entries all along (except a couple sad weeks where sickness or lack of electricity prevented me) and it's been epic. :)

A few things I learned:

1) Taste is taste. It's actually been really encouraging to see the variety of responses to the various pieces. There were entries I loved that other people found confusing or boring, and pieces I disliked that other people adored. Seeing all of this from the perspective of an outsider (for the most part) helped me realize how subjective this business of writing can be. The next time an editor or agent doesn't love my work, I'm not going to freak out and assume that everyone, everywhere is going to hate it. One opinion is just one opinion.

2) CRITIQUE PARTNERS ARE AWESOME! Because the contest is anonymous, I had to submit something previously unread. Thus un-critiqued. didn't make it through the first round. I received many very helpful comments/critiques, amounting to: This is really good writing, but too confusing when we can only see 500 words. Honestly, the comments were so kind that I couldn't be offended, but I did have a few moments of wishing my crit partners had been able to read it first and tell me that. Luckily they're there for each and every submission I ever send to an agent or editor.

3) The first few sentences of a piece are paramount. After reading so many entries, I'm starting to understand why agents and editors don't need a full manuscript to make a decision. You really can tell in a few sentences or paragraphs whether or not the writer is someone you trust to lead you through the story.

The contest began with a lot of voter enthusiasm, but sadly that has petered out--I suppose a lot of the writers who were outvoted stopped following the bouts. As one of those writers, I get the disappointment. But I have learned so much from reading the rest of the entries as well as the voter responses. I'm reading amazing writing--these people could go on to be the next Neil Gaimans of the world...and I'll get to say I "read them when..." (Of course, they're anonymous at the moment, but if they make it to the final or reveal their identities later, THEN I can say it. :)

Anyone can vote, as long as you sign up on the Linky List here. But even if you don't vote, I highly recommend checking out DL's blog and reading the entries! We're into Round 3 of the play-offs now, and the competition is really heating up...

Monday, November 12, 2012

MMGM: The Humming Room, by Ellen Potter

On a balmy day in September, I was strolling down the lovely little main street of Clayton, New York, the breeze off the St. Lawrence River ruffling my baby's hair while the older girls held hands and skipped ahead with their cousins--who live a few miles outside of town. My writer brain was on--engines revved, full speed ahead. The Thousand Islands entranced me...the little nineteenth century buildings charmed me...I wanted to set a story there. My brain had already supplied half a dozen possible plots to fit the setting when I passed by the local historical society building. There in the window, tucked in between copies of those delightful paperback local histories, was a children's book. Its green and purple illustrated cover shouted out from the mass of black and white and sepia, begging me to buy it: THE HUMMING ROOM, by Ellen Potter. I would have, too, but for the unfortunate circumstance that I had forgotten to bring my purse with me. Still, I had to go inside and look...because I had heard wonderful things about the book, but I didn't know why it was in a little North Country New York historical society's shop.
I checked the acknowledgments page (of course), where I discovered that the book was set on one of the Thousand Islands. Oh well, I guess someone got to that setting idea before me...
Almost as soon as I got home, I checked the book out of the library and fell into a masterful story. THE HUMMING ROOM is a contemporary retelling of THE SECRET GARDEN, though it felt--like the original--timeless. As T. H. White said of another book, I love THE SECRET GARDEN "this side of idolatry," so I expected to be hyper-critical of any retelling. But Ellen Potter's version was stunning, classic and so beautifully told that I fell in love again.
And, for the record, I wouldn't have pulled off the setting half as well as she did... Islands... an abandoned, very spooky children's hospital (on an island!) turned mysterious mansion... secret doors, locked-up gardens... Just try to stop drooling and go find a copy of the book now! If you live in Upstate New York, there's a sweet little historical society shop that has several copies. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I'm not dead yet...

Just a quick note to let you know we survived Storm Sandy! Some giant branches fell from our maple tree and our power was out for a week, but the majority of damage was to my housekeeping.
I'm going to take the rest of the week to catch up on laundry and vacuuming and scrubbing, but I'll be back to my normal schedule on Monday.