Saturday, December 26, 2009

Book Recommendations and Awards

I've been reading The Storyqueen's blog for quite a while now and thought it was about time I checked out some of her picture books.  All three of my kiddos are into knights and dragons, so I figured they'd enjoy her books.  The first one I picked up was A COLD WINTER'S GOODNIGHT.  We giggled our way through it, and they asked me to read it over and over again.  My seven-year-old (who should be in bed) just brought me GOOD NIGHT, GOOD KNIGHT  and GET WELL, GOOD KNIGHT because he saw I had A COLD WINTER'S GOODNIGHT out.  He and the wee tyrant are both begging for me to read the stories.

Story Intermission

Good Night, Good Knight (Easy-to-Read, Puffin)Get Well, Good Knight (Puffin Easy-to-Read)A Cold Winter's Good Knight

Okay, I read their stories.  We laughed.  They said their favorite funny lines with me.  And now, I'm hoping they'll stay in their beds.  But I highly recommend these books by Shelley Moore Thomas to anyone with little dragon lovers of their own.


Shannon Messenger gave me a couple of awards for a Christmas present (Thanks, Shannon!), so I'm passing them on.


I'm supposed to pass the award on to five uplifting blogs that make me find a silver lining on those gray days--which is easier said than done. All the blogs I follow do that.  However, I am going to pass it on to:


The way I see it, all bloggers are writers.  And all of the blogs I read have wonderful writers.  This award didn't come with any rules, so I'm just going to give it to one person.  I'm awarding this one to. . . 

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

The fam was listening to Christmas music while I was making dinner, and I went over to peek and saw this one in the sidebar.  

I love the song.  I had to sing a solo of it when I was in college.  And I love listening to Andrea Bocelli, but I don't usually like listening to him sing with women; the women tend to overpower his velvet purr.  The only exception I'd found before tonight was Sarah Brightman, but I thought Mary J. Blige pulled it off.  I've never heard of her.  Her voice is gorgeous, but then, so is Sarah Brightman's.  I think the first time I heard Sarah Brightman sing was with Michael Crawford in The Phantom of the Opera.  Le Sigh.  Michael Crawford had the BEST PHANTOM VOICE EVER.

Here is my favorite of her singing with Andrea Bocelli.

I hope you are all having lovely holidays.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Contracts and Rejections


(sung to this tune)

Don't you love how I'm subtle like that?  And modest.

Highlights sent me a contract for another poem!  I was very surprised.  Out of the five poems I've sold, I've only been really sure about one of them when I sent it off.  The lines came when I was in the shower (away from my darling children).  I wrote the poem as soon as I'd gotten out and knew I had something.  "The Letter O" is still my favorite of the poems I've sold, but most of my favorites have been rejected for being "too sophisticated" or because they might be confusing for small children.  Sometimes, I agree with the editor, and sometimes I don't.  Tell me I'm not the only one who has to exert extreme self-control not to throw a temper tantrum every time I get a rejection.  Rejections bite.  And it can take days for the teeth marks to fade.  

So, besides my lovely contract, I also got a rejection in the mail today from a different magazine.  I read "The Dusty Dragon" to my children to see if there were flaws I'd missed earlier, but I still love it.  I felt the same way about "The Bubble Gum Queen" last year.  Editors didn't say why they'd rejected either one, and I think they are the best children's poems I've written.  

My ratio for the year is currently at 18 rejections:2 contracts.  I only submitted 15 times this year versus 33 times last year.  I've spent more time this year focusing on finishing a novel, and, not only did I finish a rough draft, I'm hoping to finish my second draft by the end of this month.  Yet, this is the first year I've had two contracts for poems.  Cool.  But weird.  

This is also the first poem I've sold to my current editor.  When I first started submitting to Highlights, in 2006, I sent my submissions to Marileta Robinson (among many other things, Marileta writes The Timbertoes for Highlights).  I hadn't been submitting long before I realized Marileta was a gem among editors.  Even when she rejected my work (which was often), she wrote encouraging notes on my manuscripts.  Sometimes all she wrote was "Try us again!"  Sometimes she told me what she'd like to see or why she wasn't interested in what I'd sent or how excited she was about the artwork she'd seen for something of mine that was about to be published.  I have received a grand total of ONE written note from an editor who didn't work at Highlights.  An editor at a publishing house wrote a note to say she'd really liked the picture book I'd submitted, but she didn't have room for it.  Most editors send form letters.   They don't have time to encourage or guide people who submit their work.  I understand this.  And I really appreciate the time Marileta took to write all of those notes.  So when she wrote me a note in July, telling me she was retiring and to send my submissions to Kathleen Hayes, I worried a little.  I worried until I sent Kathleen my first submission, and she sent back a really nice letter--with her phone number--explaining why my submission wasn't right for them and telling me she was excited to work with me.  Exactly what I needed.  

This is getting long, so I'm going to leave you with a song:



Monday, December 7, 2009

you don't want to read this one

I was going to write about decorating the tree with my kids tonight, how the two-year-old kept sneaking candy canes off the tree and going off to eat them. It amazes me, how quickly she can unwrap and eat them.

And then, I started reading a book I picked up at the library this afternoon, a book I'd had to request and had been looking forward to for quite some time. I'd heard the writing was beautiful. It was. The story sucked me right in (even though I'd meant to do the dishes after I got the kids in bed) and even made me laugh out loud. Then, on page 17, I put the book down and almost didn't pick it up again. Some books ought to come with warnings.

It's my own fault. I don't like spoilers, so I avoid reading reviews that give anything important away. I've encountered situations I wished I hadn't before, but I've never had a story hit me like this. Actually, there were only a few little sentences, one in particular; the main character can't think about her mom "seeping." Her parents have just been killed in a car accident. Those sentences triggered memories, and the memories hit me in waves for the rest of the book. I did finish the book, and I'm not going to say which book it was. Reading is such a personal experience. I thought it would be better to finish the book than face the memories, but they won't leave me alone. So, I'm writing through them.

The paramedics said my mom should have been killed instantly, but her adrenaline kept her alive long enough for my dad and my brother to make it to the accident and talk to her. Almost as soon as she started talking though, she died. They didn't even get her to the ambulance.

I have three sisters, and my dad thought we should fix her hair and put on her make-up for the viewing. I could see his reasoning; we knew better than anyone how she wore her hair and make-up. But did he know what he was asking? I don't think so. We had to look at, to cover-up wounds I wouldn't have looked at otherwise. I had to sit down because I felt dizzy when the mortician described everything we were hiding from the people who would see her; her body was broken in so many places. I couldn't keep my hand steady when I lined her eyebrows, so Michelle did that while I covered up the bruises and "seeping" places.

I missed her. Of course I missed her. She hadn't wanted me to get married when I had because she thought 21 was too young, so I'd promised her I would finish school. I didn't know I'd get so sick with my pregnancies. We had our first baby about 10 months after our wedding, and I didn't go back to school until the month after Mom died. I threw my energy, my grief, and my anger into a creative writing course because writing has always been my answer to problems like this. A week or two into the class, we had to write about a personal experience with a turning point, and I wrote about a phone call from one of my sisters. She wanted to divide up Mom's stuff, and I didn't want to. I'm a very non-controversial person, and I argued with her. The next time we met for class, our professor said he wanted to read the assignments he'd liked best and discuss what made them stand out. I was very surprised when he read mine last and even more surprised when he cried in front of us.

I keep erasing sentences about this professor and his class because they are almost as hard to write about as my mother. I took his class nine and a half years ago. He took the time to point out my faults and encouraged me to keep writing. Months after the class was over, I received a phone call from an organization looking for film script writers because he'd recommended me. I didn't know anything about writing film scripts, so I declined, but his confidence in me boosted my confidence. Every time I saw him on campus, he asked me if I was writing. He would look me in the eye. "Write."

I finished my degree. It took me longer to get a bachelor's than it takes some people to get a doctorate, but I finished.

I didn't write this to convince anyone they shouldn't read the book I read or any other book. I love reading. I love how two people can read the same book and come away with two different stories. Grieving is the same, only it's a lot harder. One of my friends has been having a really hard time since her little girl died. It was very sudden. My friend's mom came up to me at the viewing and said I knew better than anyone what her daughter was going through. I disagree. I know that what she, what they are going through is hard, but I have never buried a daughter or a granddaughter. Even if I had, I wouldn't react the same way anymore than they have reacted in the same way. I think it is dangerous to assume you know what someone is going through because you've experienced something similar. And what good is my experience anyway? It isn't good for anything unless I can see past it to listen and validate someone else and what they are going through.

So, if you went ahead and read this post, thanks for listening. Writing it out helped.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pulling My Hair Out

Evidently, last week--when everyone else was blogging about what they were thankful for--I was thankful for Weezer.  A little over 12 years ago, I went to one of their concerts with a hawt guy I'd been trying way too hard to just be friends with.  Our 12th wedding anniversary is in less than three weeks, and we're still listening to Weezer together.

And this morning, I pulled out my one white (not gray) hair again.  I only have one.  I don't have a problem with my hair changing color.  In fact, I think white hair is beautiful.  And I think this girl needs a nose.  Really.  

I wanted to bleach my hair white when I was 20, but my mom convinced me the reason the model in the picture had short hair was because she'd destroyed her hair.  So, I'm fine with my hair turning white.  The problem is I have one white hair growing right in the middle of the top of my head.  The white hair is always conspicuously shorter than the dark hairs surrounding it (couldn't have anything to do with my yanking it every three months or so), so it sticks out at weird angles.  It looks kind of like this, only whiter and without the bird.   

And it reminds me of the nursery rhyme: 

Once there was a girl with a curl
right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good, 
she was very, very good.
And when she was bad,
she was horrid. 

You thought this post was going to be about my NaNoWriMo experience.  Didn't you?   

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Weezer Videos

Okay, so watch this video first:

And then watch this one:


Friday, November 20, 2009

Smiley Stuff and a Confession

If anyone else out there needs something to make them smile (I've had the flu for almost two weeks), I highly recommend this post, by Laini Taylor.  I already knew Arthur Levine was cool.  He acquired the U.S. rights to the Harry Potter Series and the Chanters of Tremaris Series, and he picked up Laini and Jim's book, Lips Touch (a National Book Award Finalist).  But those pictures are proof that he is the COOLEST EDITOR EVER!

NaNoWriMo Confession:  my word count has been suffering from my need for almost twice as much sleep as usual.  Ugh. I'm halfway there with about a week and a half to go.  I'm still loving my story and characters.  It's funny how my stories never quite turn out the way I think they're going to.

So, I was trying to take a nap with my two-year-old today because we needed one, but every time I said I was going to sleep she giggled and giggled.  She has a contagious giggle, so we spent a half an hour giggling until we were exhausted and went to sleep.

And I realize this is going to date me, but I love the original Star Wars movies.  The Luke interpretation in this video is hilarious.  My kids can sing along with the whole thing.


What made you smile today?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Random Publishing Tidbits a la Beaker

I was just reading this post by my favorite literary agent, and I thought I'd share the link with anyone who thinks they might ever want to query an agent.  I have never queried an agent because I don't have any of my novels to that point yet.  But next year, I'm hoping I'll have revised two very different YA novels to perfection (hahaha).  Then, hopefully, reading posts like Nathan's will make me feel less like this: 

Moving on, last week, I received a long anticipated letter from Highlights:

Dear Ms. Foster,

We're happy to report that your verse, "A Place on My Bed," is scheduled for the June 2010 issue of Highlights High Five.


Hurray!  They sent me a contract for this one in January, and I hadn't heard back from them since they sent my check.  I love what they do with my little poems.  This letter is where they let me know when they're publishing the poem and how they plan to illustrate it.  This is where I have my chance to go over the poem they send me for mistakes (I've never found any at this point) and correct them before the poem is published.  I love, LOVE being a part of this magazine.  All three of my children like to read it, and I like reading it to them.

If any of you are wondering how NaNoWriMo is going, I'm just over 13,000 words.  Yes, I'm a little behind, but I still think I can do it.  The novel is kind of like this:  

Okay.  I'm was just looking for an excuse to throw in a song by Coldplay ;)  There isn't anything "Yellow" or Beaker about my novel.  

I hope you are having a lovely November.      

Friday, November 6, 2009


As I was driving home from the grocery store, I realized that, not only was my main character falling for the wrong guy, I've been feeling more sympathetic towards him as well.  Is this what using first person POV does to a writer?  

So I'm driving down my street, scowling and muttering to myself, questioning my character development, when I notice my neighbor waving to me with a strange expression on his face.  I lost the scowl and waved, but he still looked confused.   

This is not the first time I've done something like this.  About five years ago, one of my neighbors (a lovely neighbor who has since moved) stopped me as I was driving by her house and asked if she'd done something to offend me.  I told her she hadn't and asked why she'd think she had.  She mentioned the scowling.  Thank goodness she said something!  I told her I'd been thinking about something else, and that was the end of it.  But how many people would actually approach me about it?  I've tried not thinking about novels while I'm driving, but my mind tends to work on them whenever it isn't working on something else.

I had another friend ask me yesterday if everything was okay.  She said I'd been looking very serious lately.  She's a very polite friend ;)

So the problem is, what do I say?  I know I can't go around talking about voices in my head; I'd just as soon not mention the writing at all, but it comes up because I think about it so often. Do any of the writers reading this have a trick for turning off your story while you're out in public?    

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


It's going better than I thought it would.  In fact, I'm really enjoying the voice I'm writing in and the story she has to tell.  I had trouble turning it off to sleep when I finally went to bed early this morning.  I won't be on here much this month.  I am a painfully slow writer, and I'm competitive enough that I can't accept a challenge without trying to win.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Dread

You know the feeling you get when you're watching a movie, and the "Wait Until Dark" kind of music starts playing.  Your stomach muscles tighten, and you wait for that something, that something you dread so much by the time it happens that your reaction is three times worse than it should have been.  Afterwards, the moment can seem anti-climatic, but right before the moment, the Dread has you firmly in it's unspeakable grip.  Wow.  Feel the grip.

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, and I have been Dreading it with a capital D.  You see, I finished a first draft earlier this year and have been working on my second.  I've found ways to almost banish the Dread from my writing routine entirely:

1.  Never let more than a day go by without working on my novel.  Writing poems and other stuff doesn't count.  The more time I let go by before I get back to it, the more I worry, the more power I impart to the Dread.  Once I'm writing, the Dread has very little power.  

2.  Arguing with my internal editor, who, I realized yesterday when I thought about it, is Ben's evil twin.  He and the Dread work hand in hand.  The incredibly awesome Natalie has great advice about dealing with the internal editor and first drafts in general.

3.  Reading.  This can seem counter-productive at times, but reading fiction and non-fiction actually helps me be more productive.  Reading great writing advice keeps me from staying stuck.  Stuck is bad.  It's like inviting the Dread over and feeding it cheesecake.  DO NOT FEED THE DREAD!  If you like Stephanie, you should read this too.  I love Steph.  I started reading her blog last year, when she was where I am now.  She wrote this great post, and I was hooked.

So NaNoWriMo, I'm still not sure if I want to go there.  I'm very tempted to put off the next first draft until January and then let it drag out over a few months.  After all, I have a system now.  Right?  RIGHT???  But I got so much done the only time I ever attempted NaNoWriMo.  It was amazing until I found lice in one of my children's hair and spent the rest of November dealing with that nightmare.  That could be one more reason why I'm dreading the whole thing.  Lice.  Shudder.  Dread.

Okay six hours and a talk with Ben later, I've decided I'm in.  I'm Night Writer over there too, if you want to be my "buddy."  I've even narrowed it down to the funny story and first person.  Finally.  Bring on the Dread.

Happy Halloween! 

Monday, October 26, 2009


I'm changing the name of my blog, but the URL is the same.  I usually write at night (when my kiddos are asleep), and  I always did intend for this to be a writing journal of sorts.  After all, most of the blogs I read are writer's blogs.  I started with Shannon Hale's wonderful squeetus. It was the only blog I read for quite a while.  Every now and then, I followed links to other blogs(Q, Squeaky Books, Miss Erin, ect.)  because I liked their comments.  Then Shannon included a link to Not for Robots, and I started reading Laini Taylor's blog.  I discovered Stephanie through Laini, and so on.

I really haven't posted anything on my writing.  I'm finding it just as hard to write about as it is for me to talk about.  Have any of you ever had one of those awkward conversations where you try to explain what or why you are writing?  I love this list of Shannon Hale's.  I could so relate.
But I am going to write about writing.  After all, it's not there are a ton of people reading this. My only follower doesn't seem like the kind of person who will laugh at me for being delusional.  

My wee tyrant just fell asleep.  I let her sleep in this morning because I had this really great scene pop into my head right after I sent the other two off to school.  I got most of it written before she woke up too.  Ben was teasing me about turning into a morning writer, and that's when Night Writer came to me.  The fact that it sounds like Night Rider is just a bonus.  I used to watch the show when I was a kid, but I haven't seen any of the newer adaptations.

Anywho, I'd better go find out what happens next in the hole I'm trying to fill.  I'm most of the way through the second draft of a supernatural YA fantasy.  No, there aren't any vampires.  And here I am, writing about writing, when I should be writing.

And speaking of change, my oldest has been 11 for almost 24 hours.  What a crazy, fun day!  

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Just in Time for Halloween

My nephews would thoroughly approve of my first blog award from Q.  

Thank You!

I would like to nominate:

Stephanie's blog just had a gorgeous make-over, and she always makes me laugh.
Natalie may not be a kung-fu master, but she is a ninja.
Maile, my friend, you are made of awesomeness.
Emily is way more addicted to blogging than I am.  Really.
The Story Queen, the good luck charm of writing bloggers, actually commented on my blog!

That's all for today!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Poetry Workshop

I talked to second graders about poetry this morning.  They were polite and enthusiastic (smiling and raising their hands).  I started out by sharing a poem, I'd memorized when I was young because I thought it was funny.  

The Hat  

by Shel Silverstein

We talked about how I started writing poetry for publication.  I shared some of my poems, and they recited and read some poems they liked to me.  It was a lot of fun.  

There are very few times in my life I would want to live twice, but my memories of second grade are exceptional.  That was one of the best years of my life.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I don't usually read memoirs, but this one is excellent.  I put off reading it because the author was dying of cancer when he wrote it, but he was so optimistic; his stories and advice are beautiful.  My favorite quote comes from when he's explaining why he wanted to be Captain Kirk when he was a boy.  He's talking about Kirk's cool toys, the Star Trek communicator device in particular, and he asks, "Who remembers that it was Kirk who introduced us to the cell phone?"  For some reason, that cracked me up.  

When I was about 13 or 14, I realized a book that made me laugh and cry was a book I would probably read again.  Over and over.  I borrowed The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch, from a friend who said I had to read it.  I will be buying my own copy.  

The Last Lecture

by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow

Click on the Audiobook to listen to an excerpt.

Buy This Book: | | | 


“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” 
--Randy Pausch

A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

If you do read it, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A big thanks to Q and for helping me make my blog look so much more,well, like a blog.

My toe is feeling much better.  I haven't been able to stay off of it like I told myself I would.  I've tried to make an effort, but I'm not very good at being sick or injured.  I ended up applying for (and getting) a job yesterday.  I did tell my little guy "no" when he wanted to go hiking on Monday.

My three hiking enthusiasts

We hiked White Domes at the Valley of Fire last Monday with some friends.  

I love hiking the Valley of Fire.  Aside from being a beautiful place to hike, the names of the sites all sound like they could be the titles of interesting books:  Elephant Rock, The Seven Sisters, The Cabins, White Domes, Mouse's Tank, and so many more.  They have a marathon/half-marathon/10K (if any of you like to run) every year.   I'll just leave you with one more picture, though my pictures don't do the place justice.  

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I broke my toe on Wednesday playing soccer with Robyn.  We were both trying to get the ball, and I kicked her shin guard instead.  She doesn't even have a bruise.  You should see mine.

I'm taking advantage of my down time to start a blog.  I've been meaning to for a couple of years now, but I  always seem to have so many other things to do.  Like right now, I should really be sleeping or revising my novel.  

Hmm.  Sleep is good.