Friday, August 31, 2007

I know they're excited, but....

The baby's not due to be born for a month. But the girls are so excited they've given up sleeping. And napping. Instead, they stay up until midnight chattering about what they're going to do when the baby is born...... and then wake up at 6 am to poke my belly and tell their new sibling good morning.

My husband and I are just about to drop from exhaustion. Why aren't they??

On the other hand, I'm not worried about sibling rivalry. Except in the "It's MY turn to kiss the baby!" sense.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On Kindergarten

This was posted on the National Review Weblog.... I've always liked Father Rutler. He has a monthly feature in Crisis Magazine entitled "Cloud of Witnesses" which is always a profile of someone he knew who died......

My Wife Takes a Rather Different View [Peter Robinson]
In an eariler post I noted that, after two days in kindergarten last week, our five-year old announced that she had no intention of returning. (The mood passed.) Noticing this, Fr. George Rutler, our unofficial chaplain here on the Corner, offers his own views on the proper education of the very young.

I'd encourage your youngest one to abandon kindergarten altogether. Almost everything I learned was learned outside the classroom, and school itself interrupted my education. Moreover, school locks you in with your peers. That is a mistake. One's social circle should never include one's equals.

From my earliest years I found children uninteresting and always preferred the company of adults. This was an advantage, because I got to know lots of folks who are dead now whom I never would have known if I had waited until I was an adult. - So I have a collective memory - and oral tradition - that goes back to the eighteenth century, having spoken with people who knew people who knew people who knew people who lived then. -

The only real university is the universe and a city its microcosm. That is why an expression like "New York University" is foolish. New York City is the university….Instead of school, children should spend some hours each day in hotel lobbies talking to the guests.

They should spend time in restaurant kitchens and shops and garages of all kinds, learning from people who actually make the world work….One day spent roaming through a real classical church building would be the equivalent of one academic term in any of our schools, and a little time spent inconspicuously in a police station would be more informative than all the hours wasted on bogus social sciences.

Formal lessons would only be required for accuracy in spelling and proficiency in public speaking, for which the public speakers in our culture are not models, and in exchange for performing some menial services a child could learn the violin, harp, and piano from musicians in one of the better cocktail lounges, or from performers in the public subways….

So I urge you to keep your child out of kindergarten, because kindergarten will only lead to first grade and then the grim sequence of grade after grade begins and takes its inexorable toll on the mind born fertile but gradually numbed by the pedants who impose on the captive child the flotsam of their own infecundity.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Pink Was Giving Me Headaches!

The Pink was starting to be a bit too much for me. But Blogger makes it really easy to change your template. I think I like this one better, for now.... But the whole "redecorate with one click" feature makes change awfully tempting.

I really need to study more HTML so I that when I finally sell a book I can have a super-duper custom website and blog....

Unsolicited Submissions and Despair

There have been a lot of posts on SCBWI recently lamenting the fact that so many publishers are no longer responding to unsolicited submissions. A lot of authors seem very hurt and indignant. "How dare they treat potential customers this way?" seems to be the refrain of the hour...

But this is looking at the situation exactly backwards.

We're not the potential customers. They are. After all, we want THEM to buy OUR product. Unsolicited Authors are in the position of a salesman cold-calling. Or, actually in the position of someone sending unasked for catalogues and junk mail.

Do YOU personally respond to everyone who sends you a piece of junk mail? Do you call all those credit card companies up and tell them exactly why you're rejecting their offer?

I didn't think so. At least the publishers do us the courtesy of opening our submissions and reading the first page or so. The junk mail I get goes straight to the trashcan, unless I let the kids play with it...

So then you may wonder, why keep sending out unsolicited manuscripts?

Well, because, just like a few people may respond to that junk mail that you toss blithely in the trash can, there's a chance that some publisher somewhere may look at what you have to offer and think "Hey.. I'd like to see more of this..."

But we really can't blame them for not wanting to take the time to respond to all the stuff that they don't want. Even if we're SURE they should really, really want our book.

After all, what kind of salesman would we be if we didn't believe in the product?

Hmmm... I don't FEEL poor...

There's been a lot of talk about the two Americas, health care for the poor, etc.

So today I looked up the federal poverty line for a family of 5 (since babies in utero count..)

Our taxable income puts us right on the line... (Our health insurance is 10,000 a year, but it comes out before taxes, so from a federal perspective that money doesn't really exist....)

So we're the poor? We have a house (a small one, but we're saving up to afford a bigger one), a minivan, a computer and Internet!

We never have to cut corners to pay the bills. We get the EIC, but we save it for emergencies (new hot water heater, etc.)

If it wasn't for our massive student loan debt (comes out after taxes) of close to $500 a month, we'd be living high on the hog! (definition: not shopping at Aldis except when we wanted to-- of course, technically we could meet the same goal by buying a big freezer and stocking up when Meijers had sales.... but we don't have room for a freezer.)

We have plenty to eat, our house is fairly warm in the winter (even the wealthy people in town have this problem-- 100 year old houses are poorly insulated...) I get to stay home with the kids, and my husband has a 40-hour work week with a month of vacation every year!

And we're poor... (just barely, but still...)

We have too many clothes and WAYYYYY too many toys. (And too many books, but we don't talk about that...)

But we also pay next to nothing in taxes. So a number of our "non-poor" friends actually have a HARDER time making ends meet than we do. Because their tax burden is so high, they actually have LESS DISPOSABLE INCOME than we do! And they work more hours. And have less vacation....

Which is why I tend to look askance at all the"two Americas" talk. Why would I vote for someone who wants to increase taxes and make it harder for my friends and family to get by just to give me a life that's even easier than the one I have now?

(I mean, sure, we only get to eat out 3-4 times a year - but eating at home is healthier anyway, and restaurants are often a bit of a let down. And we never go to the movies... but that's mostly a function of a house full of small children. "the rich" young families I know don't get out much either.....
And we don't have cable. But we wouldn't anyway--we prefer DVDs.. the TV only gets used for Sesame Street and Caillou and severe thunderstorms... And we live walking distance from my husband's job and use cloth diapers and make our own bread and breastfeed-- But again, even if we were RICH we'd do all those things..... It's not just the money...)

And, we don't plan to stay "poor" forever.... so why would I vote for someone who wants to raise taxes on my future self?

Americans defined as poor don't vote against their own self-interest -- it's just that many politicians have never bothered to meet us and find out what our self-interest actually IS.

Anyway, enough political ranting for the day.... But really, if we REALLY want to help the poor, shouldn't we be helping the folks who have malaria and dysentery and regularly have to watch formerly healthy babies waste away and die before their eyes? But wait... those people aren't American so we don't care about them.....

(And yes, I know the US has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Do you know why? Because babies who would be stillborn in most places actually get born here. And some of them are too sick to live very long... But our HEALTHY infant mortality rates are great......)

Anyway, I'll stop now. But I thought this article was pretty interesting: Poor Politics

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

First day of school!

Today was our first official day of home-school pre-school.

Why? Because the school supplies arrived and we were all thrilled and wanted to use them as soon as possible.

My 3 1/2 year old LOVES the fat pencils and special paper to help her learn to write. We also splurged and got a bunch of GIANT magnetic letters, both upper and lower case!

So the three of us (almost-two-year-old could NOT be left out, of course!) spent 45 minutes working on "writing." (My workbook from Kolbe hasn't come yet, so I'm currently in scattershot land)

We practiced O's, lines, and writing names. We traced letters with our fingers, identified all the magnetic letters as they came out of their bags, (3 1/2 -year old knows them all! YAY! I have absolutely NO idea how she learned them, but she's become a pro at picking out letters and numbers on our walks around town), and even practiced sounding out some of our favorites.

I'd thought that my daughter's "reading and writing" attention span would be about 10 minutes at a time (I'm a big fan of "teachable moments" at this age). I was shocked at the whole 45 minute thing... but then, sometimes it's fun just to have Mommy's mostly undivided attention!

Anyway, it was fun all around, and I plan on keeping it as long as the kids are interested... But I don't want to get too formal, since "formal schooling" and three-year-olds really don't mix in my world....


You know, when I sent the story I'm working on out to the first couple of publishers, I thought it was pretty good. Then I hit 10 rejections, and decided to haul it in for a major re-critique (with different critiquers) and re-write.

It's becoming MUCH better. I sort of wish I hadn't sent it out when I had...

But when I write something I like, I really need the distance and objectivity that comes with having 10 objective parties say "Sorry, we're not at all interested. Actually, we're not even really sorry--this isn't ready for the big-time yet"

Because now I can do the hard, heartless labor of cutting away the dead-rot and making the story all it should be.....

I've noticed that some writers can get the necessary distance without submitting first. I hope I reach that level of self-discipline some day. I also hope that every critique I get gives me new tough questions to ask myself when looking at a manuscript and trying to decide if it's ready.

And now, back to work. procrastinating time is over. And if I finish my chores (house and writing) I can spend a little more time with Bekkah Cooper and the Dogs.

(My number finally came up on the hold-list at the library! =) )

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dealing with Rejection

So, after about 15 minutes of wailing and gnashing my teeth I:

1. Pulled up an even leaner, meaner and all around better version of my MSS that I've been working on for the last month (In case this happened).

2. Found 8 publishers that it would work for, and to whom I currently have no MSS submitted

3. Subbed it to 5 of them (The other 3 will have to wait a few days, the kids intervened and I'm dangerously low on printer paper.)

4. Immediately felt much better. What can I say? Hope springs eternal, and I'll probably have a better shot with one of the bigger publishers. After all, the good small presses are just as picky as the biggies, but publish about 1/10 as many books.....

So, that's the Deirdre Mundy lesson on dealing with rejection as a writer -- get over it, submit more, and keep writing.... Not particularly original advice, but the only advice that works!

Now, to battle the evil dish monster... (The oven got ignored because the kids wanted to play ball...inside.... while jumping on the beds.... and I aided and abetted them....we also never made it to the lake, because the game wore us all out and we ended up collapsing...... But they're getting MUCH better at catching and throwing, so I'm calling it "Motor Skills Training.")

Birthday Bashed

Well, this is shaping up to be a pretty bad 30th birthday.

My husband had to work, so it was going to be pretty dreary anyway.

Then the kids and I had trouble getting out of the house this morning, so we missed my daughter's ballet class. At least I realized we weren't going to make it when we were halfway there, so we only wasted 16 miles worth of gas instead of 40.......

So I got home, checked my email and found that the book I was REALLY REALLY hoping would get published was rejected just shy of the final cut. At least it's a really good book-- and the publisher was small, so it might have an easier time finding a home somewhere that publishes more than 8 picture books a year......

Now I have to get my kids changed and take them to the beach-- it's 63 degrees, breezy and cloudy--not prime beach weather, but to get them to stop crying about the missed ballet I promised I'd take them so they could splash in the lake and build sandcastles and play on the playground.

Then, once they're sufficiently tired, we'll come back home, I'll pop in a video, and I'll tackle our EXCRUCIATINGLY nasty kitchen while they veg.

And if ONE MORE PERSON asks me what I'm doing for my birthday, I'll scream.
(answer: cleaning the oven.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wrestling with Imaginary Puppies

I have a manuscript I REALLY like. But, after 13 form rejections, I decided that it's time for a major rewrite. So I posted it in the SCBWI manuscript exchange forum.

I got a lot of really good feedback really quickly. So now I'm spending the week wrestling with the manuscript. (Like the epic Zebra battles, but without any external deadlines.)

My challenge? To increase the level of story tension and the amount of action without substantially increasing the word count.

(My kids like stories that are about 750 words tops. While I'm sure they're weird in most respects, I think they're pretty typical in this one. And since I'm aiming for a toddler/preschool story that elicits screams of "Again! Again!", I think I ought to follow their advice on this one. =) )

I've just finished the rewrite... now comes the re-edit with MAJOR trimming.......

My least favorite part. The hardest part. The part that leaves me bleary-eyed and headachey. But it's also the part that turns a good story into a great one and has produced some of my best work (in my opinion, and in the opinions of editors.....) So off to editing I go...

As soon as my three-year-old and I eat a few blueberry pancakes.....

Thursday, August 9, 2007

And they claim to be able to find TERRORISTS?

The smuggled monkey

So a man can smuggle a monkey (albeit a small, well-behaved one) onto a flight from Fort Lauderdale to New York by hiding it in his hat?????????

My whole family has to remove our shoes whenever we travel, and this guy can hide a Monkey???????

Somehow this does NOT help my already dubious faith in Airport Security....

Note to the government: A well-trained attack monkey could be a LOT more dangerous than my bottle of Suave Shampoo.......

Maternity Leave from Submitting

As my pregnancy progresses, something has to give....

so while I'm keeping up with my writing and revising, I'm giving submitting a break for now.

Why? I have about 30 things out there right now. I can expect replies through January. So I'll still be getting feedback, even if I don't actively submit anything until after Baby #3 appears.

Also, submissions are the most time-consuming writing-related chore I have. Researching guidelines, writing covers and queries, even addressing envelopes all take time and energy that need to be spent elsewhere right now...... (Like writing thank you notes-- I'm so far behind! And trying to finish daughter #2's scrapbook before child # 3 arrives.... Oh... and her baby book too... that has about 3 entries right now! Gosh.... I'm going to be in trouble if I don't get to work..... Maybe I should start blogging milestones... that way I can go back and look for them later to fill out baby books! =) )

And finally, and most prosaically, I'm low on stamps, and don't feel like making a post office run right now. =)

If I write something really suited to a particular magazine I'll send it off, but as far as querying and subbing my stash of picture books? Not right now.....

(And maybe when I start up again, I'll try a few agents.... I would save SO much time and be able to write SO much more if someone else was in charge of the "finding a publisher" thing!)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Trophy Kids

There's been a lot of talk on the Internet over the last few days about "Trophy Kids" . I think most of the commentary is pretty unfair. (though that might just be because, as the soon-to-be mother of three, I fall into the category of "Competitive Birther." Yeah, right. )

I think the whole issue might really be one of social norms....

If you know a lot of people who think 3, 4, or even 5 is an acceptable number of children, you're probably more likely to seriously consider having a larger family.

If, on the other hand, everyone you know stops at one, you'll probably see one as the norm.....

Also, there's the wide availability of in vitro fertilization, with its tendency to multiple births....

Personally, considering the crowd I hang out with (Catholic Home-schoolers, mostly), my three is a bit pathetic.....

I keep going to events, meeting people who see my two daughters (almost 4 and almost 2) and my impending arrival (only 2 months to go), and watching as my new acquaintance scans the room, clearly wondering where I'm hiding the rest of my brood.......

sigh.... if three puts you in the "competitive birther" category, I'm doomed to be pretty close to last place....... =)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Alleluia! The Cruel Strife is Over!

Last night was the vacation bible school "Mass in the Grass" and picnic. My daughter was sorry to see the week end, but I'm relieved...

35 pre-schoolers for 4 nights in a row is a bit much... and the bible school made my children to hyper to sleep!

Now we can return to our regularly scheduled life. =) And after I finish grading those darned Latin tests, I can settle down to read HP7 (I have it for a week, via the "Hot Picks" shelf at our library.)

And, meanwhile, I'm still waiting to hear back from a couple of really promising publishers. To stay sane and on task, I'm only checking my email twice a day! =) And I am NOT staring at the phone the way a cat stares at the electric can opener.......