Archive for December, 2013

Thinking about the new year… and the old…

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

So… I’m up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep.  Thinking about how 2013 is somehow already ending.  How did that happen?

One weird thing about being a blogger is that I have archives of my thoughts, so I get to leapfrog back to past resolutions each year, to see if I’ve accomplished my goals. It’s a funny kind of time travel.  Tonight I’m looking back at where I was a year ago.

I’ve been a little worried about this moment.   I haven’t been feeling terribly focused lately.   But it’s okay!  Last year I said I had only two goals.

#1 was “I want this to be the year I start taking better care of myself physically.”

And #2 was “I want to try very very hard not to think about selling the books I write.”

Honestly,  I only half tackled the first goal. I did NOT go back to dance class.  I did NOT start running.  So I’ll roll all that exercise over to next year.  AND I MEAN THAT, REALLY, THIS TIME I WILL.  THIS TIME NEXT YEAR I’LL BE IN AMAZING SHAPE.  (Ahem)  But I DID do a much better job with other kinds of health stuff.  I’ve been taking my vitamins, and my teeth are in much better shape!  Ta da!  So that’s fine.  We’ll round up.

But I’d forgotten about the second goal, and I did tackle that one android online casino no deposit bonus.  It’s been a really good thing for me.  Important.

Last spring I finished and turned in the book I was working on, SEVEN STORIES UP, which will be out next month.  (Yay!!)  But the revision process for that book was a tough one, and so when I was done, instead of trying to crank out a proposal for the next book,   I just let myself scribble all kinds of different things.  All spring I scribbled poems and picture books, and into the summer.  I wrote a lot of manuscripts nobody will ever see in that time, and I didn’t finish THE MAGICAL THAT  (mentioned in the post from a year ago), but I published some little essays, and in the end a few of the not-thinking-about-selling scribbles resulted in actual sales, namely  CHARLIE & MOUSE, and CHARLIE & MOUSE & GRUMPY.  Books I am deeply connected to. They’re so personal for me. I’m very happy about them.

But also– now I have a PILE of  new picture books to revise, and I have drafts of 2 totally different chapter books, (as well as several false starts I never finished, but might someday).  Also I have a very very clear outline, and the first chapters of a new novel, THE ORPHAN ISLAND.  Which I’m insanely excited about.

It was good, this letting-go-of-thinking-about-selling.  I didn’t stop making work.  Rather, I was hugely productive.  I only let go of my focus, my worry.  I let myself fiddle and poke,, taking my time and not thinking about what exactly I was producing. Just letting the words come, in bits and snippets. Sitting on the couch, lazily.  The way I used to journal, as a kid.  Or the way I wrote poems in college.  It felt different… and I feel much better.

Now,  here’s what I find fascinating…

When I made my resolution last year, I felt like I needed a new model.  A better way to work. I wasn’t in love with my ideas at that moment, and I was at the end of writing a novel, needing a break.  I felt a little uninspired. Burned out.  So I took some time.

But you know what’s funny? I just realized that was my  SHMITA.

You know shmita?

In Jewish tradition, farmers leave their fields to lie fallow every seven years, so that the earth has a chance to replenish. It’s a sabbatical year. They can water and nurture the land.  But they  aren’t supposed to farm it, to work it. They call that shmita.

2007 was the year I really began my career as a children’s author.  That was the year I revised UP AND DOWN THE SCRATCHY MOUNTAINS for Random House.  The year I learned about “marketing a book.” I was getting ready to become an author in 2007. I saw my first galleys and my first line edits. I had my first meetings in New York.  A door opened, and I walked through it. My life got INTENSE in a whole new way  It was thrilling. And for six years, I put my head down and WORKED.

For SIX YEARS.  Then I took a break, without exactly meaning to.

Now, obviously I haven’t been on vacation for a year. I’ve been watering and fertilizing.  But I really did let up on myself in a lot of ways.  I didn’t have a novel come out , so I traveled a lot less.  But the main thing was this shift in how I thought about my work.  I worked slow and sloppy.  I let myself wander.  in 2013 I let the fields lie fallow. I let my earth renew itself.   I took a sabbatical.  And it was good.

It never fails to amaze me how much wisdom there is in the Jewish tradition.  So often I find a metaphor there, an analogy to my own life, though I’m not terribly observant.  I’d been thinking until today that  this slow and sloppy way of working was just my new method.  That it was time to step away from the head-down word-count-a-day mode.

But maybe not. Now, thinking about shmita, I’m feeling the opposite.  Maybe it’s exactly the time to get back out there in the fields with my plough, reap the bountiful harvest this renewed earth is supposed to yield.

I’m not ready to make resolutions yet, but I’m thinking about them.

What about you?


A Rant on WHY YOU NEED Decent Health Insurance…

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

This is the basic math of health care…

Let’s say you have a family of four, and you need to decide whether to pay for a dental plan, and the plan will cost an extra $150 a month.  Does that sound like a lot to you?

The plan will cover basic checkups twice a year, or about 85 percent of the cost for them. It will cover 50 percent of major dental work.  So… $150 a month is $1800 a year.  That’s a lot, yeah. And you still have to pay for some stuff. Ugh.

But as a parent I assume you plan to go for visits twice a year, right? Because you know that good dental care is something kids need to develop, right?  And modeling that care yourself is the best way to teach them? And you also know that preventative care of your teeth can help with things like heart disease?

So now let’s figure 8 visits (4 people twice a year) for basic exams and teeth cleaning.  And figure the exams and cleanings, even without X-rays and scaling and stuff, are $150 each.  So that’s roughly $1200 you’re “saving.”  (and I’m doing this rough and dirty, not calculating the co-pays, but that’s cheap for dental work, and you WILL need X-rays and so on, so this is conservative, trust me)

Now– all you have to do is have one procedure a year among the four of you that costs $600, and your dental coverage has paid for itself.  Right? One kid with a cracked tooth. One root canal.  Maybe two and a half small fillings on regular teeth.  Or an irrigation for gum issues.

But these numbers are actually looking pretty close. So maybe I’m wrong, and you’d do just as well to pay out of pocket, right? Especially in years when you don’t need any fillings? Maybe you’re better off skipping the dental insurance, after all…


Because the kicker is that you WOULD NOT. You would NOT go to the dentist twice a year if you had to pay $150 bucks just for the visit. You would NOT opt for the X-rays, if you had to pay extra for them. Maybe you’d take the kids in on schedule, because you feel bad not doing it, and the pediatrician might ask, but you’d TOTALLY skip your own visits.  You’d save the $150 and spend it on something else.  You would suffer a tooth ache, and hope it goes away. You would wait… and wait… and wait. You’d wait years.

And then, one day, you would find yourself at the ER in the night, because of sudden intolerable pain.  And the doc at the ER would say, “Wow, this is serious. You’ve got a major infection in there. We need to take out these two teeth and you might have a malignancy in the bone.  I SURE HOPE YOU HAVE INSURANCE!”

And in that moment you will cringe.  Because what you’re about to have done to your teeth–the surgery that could have been prevented with a $150 visit twice a year–it will  cost thousands and thousands of dollars.  (and be painful, and mean you’ll miss work too, which is another cost, actually, that we aren’t averaging in)

And once you’ve taken out a special medical credit card to pay for the abscess and the extraction, you’ll have to decide whether you want to get a tooth implant too, which will be another couple thousand.   Ouch.

So you’ll look back, at that moment, and think, “Why does stuff like this always happen to ME?”  And the answer will be, “Because you didn’t have health insurance.”

I know how obnoxious this sounds. I know I seem priggish. But this is so so so so important. It really is. And trust me, I’VE BEEN THERE.

And you know what else?  The other stuff, the non-teeth stuff? It’s all exactly like the teeth-stuff.  Only way scarier. I’ve been there too.

ANd unfortunately, you’ll be there one day yourself.  You will.  Because  you are a human being.  A soft machine, made of bone and tissue, and you WILL break down. It’s only a matter of time.    And when that happens, it will seem unfair, and unpredictable. WHO COULD HAVE EXPECTED SUCH A THING???

You could have.

When we  avoid the actual math, or we try not to think about the long game, I think it has to do with our basic fear of mortality. We want to believe we WON’T get sick. We want to believe our kids won’t break bones, or (God forbid) anything worse.  We prefer to be shocked and horrified when someone gets really sick or hurt.  ”How could this happen to such a nice young man?”

But it’s not shocking at all.  It’s inevitable. Every human being alive WILL GET SICK.  Every human being alive WILL LOSE TEETH.  Every human being alive WILL NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR.   ANd then we’ll ALL DIE.  In fact, about 40% of us will get cancer.  Probably more, as we live longer and longer.   Nobody wants to think about these things, but they are FACTS.

And the only thing you can do is floss your teeth and eat your kale and go see the doctor regularly. Get tests run  periodically. Do your best. Preventative care makes life cheaper in the long run, and gives us the best chance of living a longer, less painful life.  Preventative care.

Which you are (statistically) far more likely to bother with…  if you have reliable comprehensive insurance.

(and for the record… I am NOT AN EXPERT.  Unless you regularly turn to children’s book authors for help with your finances and heath issues.  I have no reason to be ranting about this, and you have no reason to listen to me.  But sometimes, a girl’s just got to yell)

Just a taste!!!

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Today, if you’re curious, you can read the first chapter of Seven Stories Up!

Now, before it’s even published…

Over at Medium.


Remember when books looked like this???

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Okay, neither do I… not really.  This was published long before I was born.

But I had a lot of books as a kid that had been my mom’s, and my dad’s, and belonged to their parents before them, or come to them from used book stores. So I remember what it felt like to read and read, and wait for the next amazing color plate.  Or skip to it, because I couldn’t wait for the pretty shiny picture.

Like the one above.

Or like this one.

Little Women!  Treasure Island!  The Happy Prince! East O the Sun and West O the Moon!  The Cuckoo Clock!  These books all had amazing color plates in them, and I carry those pictures with me to this day.

I wonder if some evil wizard or conjurer has stolen all the art away? WHAT OTHER EXPLANATION CAN THERE POSSIBLY BE?

This morning I’m thinking about how graphic novels are hugely HUGELY popular.

And I’m thinking about how big visual  glowing movies like Hugo or Hunger Games or Narnia are being made from middle grade books.

And I’m thinking about how often I hear people lament about “What can we do to get the kids reading?”

And I’m thinking about how, last night, Mose and Lew asked me to read picture books instead of starting a new readaloud novel.  ”Because we like the pictures.”


I mean, I know full color plates are too expensive to consider, but I so so so so love books with art in them.  Who decided that only baby books should have pictures?