Archive for December, 2008

Resolved: I will NOT be this guy

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Resolution time.  And I loooooove resolutions.  But this year, I am making very concrete resolutions

Resolution the first:  Avoid eating crap.  More veggies.  Fewer “chicken doughnuts” and catsup.

This is not a diet really. No lofty goals.  I’m just feeling bad about how often a banana stands in for “produce” lately.  I grew up loving green things, but despite my best efforts. between school visits and editor-deadlines and furious emailing, I end up relying on junk a lot more than I want to.  I hate how many processed foods enter Mose and Lew’s little bodies.  I know that the more I feed them salty/sweet/packaged foods, the less they’ll learn to appreciate the flavor of a really fresh squash.  The first snap peas of the year.  Berries should be a good dessert, you know?  So we’re killing the goldfish crackers and the cookies and the pizzas and making a lot of soup.

Resolution the second: Turn off the computer after 8 pm, and when I’m alone with the boys.

Again, this seems like low hanging fruit.  But it feels really important.  I need to do a better job of dividing “work” from “home.”  One of the big challenges of being an author and working at home is that I NEVER leave work.  I can always just jump online and check email once more, tinker with the book, etc.  I LOVE the time I spend offline, and I need to get better about making sure it happens.  So that’s the new rule. 9-8 is online time, and then only when the boys are asleep or Chris or a sitter is here with them.

Resolution the third:  Have fun.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it isn’t something I’m good at right now.  I work too hard.  My husband works too hard. When there is something that needs to be done, we never ever let it slide. We are efficient. We are organized. We are ambitious and driven and reliable and we are never ever late for things.  So, since life is about balance, I need to learn how to say, “We’ll get to that tomorrow” and go build a pillow-fort.  I need to put writing on hold sometimes so I can watch a dumb movie with my husband.  I need to stop feeling stressed whenever I’m having “fun” and let go of the list in my head.

THIS is the hard resolution for me.  But I think it is the most important.  I think I can get better, although I’ll always be me.

Funny, that in past years I’ve made “big” resolutions, and this year they’re all kind of little.  But I have these kids in the house, and suddenly the idea of pattern-setting feels critical. The things we do over the next few years will become “the way we operate” and I sooooooo want to be a pillow-fort-building, husband-dating, easygoing kind of a mom and wife.

One who eats veggie-ful soup, stays offline on the weekends, and knows how to breathe.

Another list!!!

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Over at, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains is a staff pick for 2008!

Thank you, Marisa Emralino.


Rootless, restless…

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

We are home in Atlanta, and I want to share a little about the trip, because I feel a little different than I did before I left.

See, part of the trip was a voyage to a bunch of little towns we are (possibly) considering a move to.

And the towns were nice. They were wonderful.

But I just kept coming back to the fact that after 6 years in Chattanooga, and nearly 5 years (can it be) in Atlanta, I feel like I belong in the southeast. And driving home yesterday, down 81, through the Blue Ridge, I was so happy.  The right amount of sky above, and feeling everything get warmer…

Seeing all the little farms and hearing the voices in the gas stations felt like coming home.

This is a perpetual struggle for me.  I feel connected to Baltimore, to the south, and to Iowa.  There are bits of me that attach to New York.  But I never feel strapped, or rooted, or fully placed.  Wherever I am feels a little inadequate.

And so there I am.

No resolution to this post. We did not decide NOT to move. We did not decide to stay.  We did not get struck by lightning that answered all our questions.

I just know that I love the south.  I love small southern cities.  That’s what I know.

I think there’s a little ragged piece of Chattanooga in me, that I’ll never shake free.

Oooh! Look!

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains is a “notable” book  for 2008, over at Smithsonian!

Pretty Awesome…

And affirming for me, since they’re smart over there.

In the midst of bleak publishing news…

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Allow me to offer an amazing glimmer of loveliness from Random House.

I just opened  a package, an envelope I found on my doorstep…

And inside I found this… a leatherbound, gilded, cloth edition of Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains.  It smells like an old library, and feels like a bible. It has a silk bookmark thingy in it, and it is the most gorgous object I’ve ever owned.  Seriously.

I’m not sure how or why my editor did this, what moved her to dream this up.  But I am completely and totally floored.

Since this ride of mine began, I have been surprised again and again by the individuality and humanity of Random House.  It is a family of people who treat me like a person and do all they can to make me feel valued.  And whatever may be happening in the business offices, I’m here to tell you that the editors and publishers at Random House Books for Young Readers are an astounding bunch.


Goodbye, year…

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Well, I have my last book event of the year on Saturday, with the Atlanta Writers’ Club. And when it’s over, I’ll climb into my car with my husband and two screaming kids, and drive to Baltimore, for latke frying and eggnog drinking and best friends and family…

I have to say that the last few years have been astounding, each more interesting and full than the last.  And this fall was a kind of wonderful/terrible insanity, a culmination. So busy I couldn’t believe it.  Trying to write one book, while promoting another, with only 8 hours of childcare a week was… well, it was kind of a mistake.  But everything was good, all of it so good, and I don’t know how I could have turned any of it down.

Besides,  that’s how we learn. Right?

And now here we are. It’s almost 2009.  I have something resembling a draft of the next book, and one coming out in May, as well as a few (secret) irons in the fire.  The kids are AMAZING, joyful and genius and beautiful beyond words.  And I know better how to find the time to do all of it from here on out.

By doing a little less, promising a little less, sleeping a little more. Breathing deeper. I’ve been practicing.

It’s a funny time we’re living in.  The world’s economies are melting, and I fear for many individuals.  But I also feel hopeful. I want to believe that we’re all learning right now.  I see everyone around me  clipping coupons and carpooling and pulling back, and breathing… and I think that’s good. I was raised to think that frugality was a  good thing.

And here,  at our house, we’re feeling frugal, but so so  lucky. Unbelievably lucky.  We have a house we can afford, jobs we don’t hate, each other, and these incredible children who challenge us daily and teach us constantly.  Deeply, I wish the same for you, in whatever it is you’re doing. The ability to breathe, to see all you have and feel lucky.  To be challenged and learning and trying and…


Happy end-of-the-year, everyone.  It’s been a wild ride, this 2008 of ours.

What’s that curse?  May you live in interesting times…


Oh, remember this one???

Monday, December 15th, 2008

I’d forgotten the rag doll and the broom handle until JUST THIS SECOND!

Thinking about Chicago…

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

In February.

Who’s going?

I have no reason to attend AWP this year, since they turned down my panel.  But I really need a poetry fix. I want to hear some poems, buy new books, see friends, talk about words in a different way.

Anyone need a warm body on a panel?  Or someone to sit at your book fair table while you pee?

It’s official: I’m nuts…

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Babble deems Slidy Diner one of the 9 weirdest books of 2008.

Perhaps this isn’t intended as an award, but I’m honored.

Deeply honored.

More from Mose…

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Mose is on a roll. I don’t know what’s going on, but I really think his brain is growing.

Today, in the car, I was deciding whether Lew needed to go to the doc. He’s been fighting off a cold, and we’d spent the morning in the waiting room without seeing anyone.  I looked back at Mose and said, “I think we’ll just go on home. He’ll be fine.”

And Mose replied emphatically, “No!  He feels very owy. He needs to see Dr. Herrmann.  His ears hurt!”

Again, I blinked.  Lew has never had problems with his ears.  He hasn’t been seeming especially in pain, or tugging on his ears or anything. But I turned the car around, and we headed to the doc.

And guess what?

Yep! Ear infection!

Life is pretty crazy.  I’m ready to spot a unicorn today.