Thursday, February 25, 2010


"Bar After Bar," a flash fiction piece I wrote a couple years ago for a Writer's Digest prompt (remember voting in their contest???) has been accepted! at a funky, edgy and experimental online literary journal called Drunken Boat. The ezine was named for the 100-line verse-poem written by Arthur Rimbaud in 1871.

The publication has up until recently been a yearly publication, but they're switching over to a twice-yearly publication. I'm not sure whether my story will run in the mid-summer or mid-winter issue this year, but I'm promised it will run within a year. Of course, I'll provide the link then.

I'm going to count this as my "March" acceptance goal.

And... no moola this time - just, um, prestige?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Dane and Aubrey are downhill speedsters! They've raced in two Cups this season, The Shakespeare Cup and the Keiser Cup, which take place up on Mt. Ashland.

In the Shakespeare Cup, Dane came in 12th out of 13 for his age group with a time of 1:01 and 1:00. His two times last year averaged to something like 1:45. Out of that, he made a personal goal of getting down that slope in under a minute -- "in the seconds," is what he called it.

Well, this year, while his Shakespeare Cup times were still not "in the seconds" for his 12th place finish, when he skied The Keiser Cup later in the season he made his goal! His first time down was 1:01 and he knew he had to shave 4 seconds off his second run to average under a minute. He raced his second run in 57 seconds!!! This earned him 8th out of 13!

Aubrey's Shakespeare Cup times were 2:16 and 1:21 for 7th out of 8 in her age group. Her Keiser Cup times were high, too, both at about 1:30 and earning her 13th out of 13, so she wasn't super excited about the results. However, with slow times like that, you have the chance to wave at your parents on your way down the course. (Mick and I were bowing our heads, trying not to encourage it -- of course, we couldn't quit laughing.)

The Sloan Cup is coming up in March. If the kids race then, I'll get video footage, so you can see how faaasssst they are...

Click here for Keiser Cup race results, and here for Shakespeare Cup results, so you can get an idea of how fast some of these kids can fly.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Love Letter

Thanks to all of you who read my essay, "The Making of a Dentist: A Story of Love and Teeth." I got so much surprising and kind feedback in emails and on Facebook that it kind of made me float around Ashland all week.

All that feedback is especially great to recall today, because... I TOTALLY LOST THE CONTEST!

I found out this morning that Jak Wonderly indeed won. Deservedly so. The other three runners-up, though (see? three! I TOTALLY lost!), well, I'll just say they ran up. (Read: Anjie is a sore loser.)

But this is the year of submitting, being excited about acceptances, and being fully capable of receiving rejections. I assure you, I will continue to collect rejections like love letters. See? Kiss kiss hug hug.

For the record, other love letters this year have come from Skirt, Mothering, and Brain, Child. But I was also a finalist in a contest and had an essay published in The Christian Science Monitor. So I'll keep reminding myself there's a little love in acceptances, too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Aubs invited her favorite gals, her cousins and two girls from class, to walk home with us and play after school on her birthday. She specifically chose a small group because last year she invited all the girls in her class and felt pulled in too many directions.

Indi and Aubrey. Aubs is wearing the dress her Grammy sent her the night before.

The gang, above, at the bleachers (with neighbor Kimmi walking part-way home with us). And below, wearing cloth napkins for do-rags and using the living room as a gym.

Of course, Aubrey wanted to do a craft.

And decorations.

Ice cream and frozen berries for "cake."

Sharly's a gal pal, too.

Aubs and Dane decorated the cakes for Sunday's bowling party.

Nora's Spanish tutor dropped her off on Sunday and took some of the gang for a spin through the neighborhood.

Birthday dog.

Bowling with buddies.

The End.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Last day to vote. I'm a little bummed.

Two awards will be given: one based on writing merit, another on popularity.

Bum 1: I'd love to win the writing merit award, but think a certain Jak Wonderly's essay is a major contender for that one.

Bum 2: I'd be fine with winning the popularity award, if it meant a little prize money and more opportunity to write for the website; however, a certain Fruit Basket's got 10 points on me.

So, there's nothing I can do about Bum 1, but wait and see. However, regarding Bum 2: If you please, drop what you're doin and swallow what you're chewin. Go to this link and click on the little number next to my title on my essay page. To vote for the teeth, of course.

Thank you.

The End

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Historical Figure / Puppet Project

Check out what these amazing kids did. Students from the two classes of 3rd graders chose a famous person to write and present a report on. Students were instructed to also make a puppet -- but they were given free rein as to how to design or create their puppet.

Look at the stuff they came up with! Click on the different photos to see the puppets, and possibly the reports, better.

We've got the likes of George Washington, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rosa Parks (made by my niece Indi!), Neil Armstrong, John Muir, Pocahontas, Amelia Erhart, The Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, MLK Jr...

Recognize George Washington there, created by Super Dane? For his presentation, he gave a basic timeline of the General's life, then he specifically spoke about Washington's risky plan to cross the Delaware with 2000 downtrodden soldiers on Christmas night, in order to surprise the Hessian soldiers -- making the first American attack yet in the war, the first American win, and the additional amazing outcome of no American injuries or deaths. It was a major turning point in the fight for independence.

Dane, of course, said it in his own brilliant words.

I was preparing for Aubrey's after-school get-together for Part 1 of her birthday partying, so I missed the event (after staying home all day with her and her 24-hour flu bug the day before). He said it went well, though -- he said he took time to read his notes before he spoke, and thinks he could have done better with eye contact, but did a solid job.

Friday, February 05, 2010


We love you -- you silly,





cuddly little thing!

"Don't I look like my old music teacher, Miss Spottiswood, right now?"

Thursday, February 04, 2010


My essay, "The Making Of A Dentist: A Story Of Love And Teeth," was published yesterday at It's a finalist in their Career Stories contest.

Feel free to give it a Thumbs Up on their site if you like it. (The Thumbs Up sign shows up faintly, as a number next to my title on the essay page.) I don't know if it'll help me win, but it can't hurt.

What's the win? Well, because I keep it real here on my blog, it's 500 smacks. And a chance to be paid to write for their website in the future. Two things I'd love, natch.

While you're there, read some of the other stories, too. They're fun and inspiring. I already gave a Thumbs Up to "How An Elephant Taught Me To Write" and "Creating True Beauty In The World."

If you use any of the links above, once you get there, you can click on the "Career Stories" link in the right-hand margin and get access to all the stories.

Leave a comment here and let me know who you turned your thumb up at!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

* * * *


* * * *

When the kids are in school, head over to your local library and check out a bunch of books for them. Then, when you get home, spread them all out over the living room floor and when they step in the door they'll dive in like you've exposed buried treasure.

That's a tip from my mother-in-law. I've been doing it for years now, and my kids love it. They can't help plopping themselves down and thumbing through whatever I've laid out there.

AWESOME BOOK TIP #2: Keep a basket or bin just for library books. Make sure other books don't go in there; make sure all library books get returned to your library-only bin. This makes it SO easy to keep track of your library books and avoid lost or overdue fines. I keep one in the kids' bedroom and one in the living room.

AWESOME BOOK TIP #3: If your library has free requests and holds, do your "shopping" online and pick up your books on-hold the next week. Unless you're on a long hold list, this should save you time if you're in a pinch and can't spend time browsing during your library visit.

AWESOME BOOK TIP #4: Take a book idea or two from a book list. Since it's Black History Month, here's a fabulous list of book ideas to broaden understanding of African American history and culture. I got it from a Horizons eFamily newsletters. It's divided up by age groups, so scroll to the one(s) you need and have fun!

For Preschool and Young School-Age Children

Shades of Black, written by Sandra L. Pinkney, illustrated by Myles Pinkney. The many shades of black are beautifully illustrated in this photo album of the many characteristics of blackness; available in board and hard copy versions. (Ages 2–6)

Oh Lord, I Wish I Was a Buzzard, written by Polly Greenberg, illustrated by Aliki. A gentle, universal story about wanting to be “anywhere but here.” A little girl picks cotton, wishing she was something and somewhere cooler and doing something less back breaking like “a snake curved up cold and cool or a dog under a bush.” A great read-aloud that easily turns into a joyous call and refrain. Aliki’s bright, expressive illustrations are unforgettable. (Ages 3–5)

Goin’ Someplace Special, written by Patricia C. McKissock, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Newbery medal-winning author Patricia C. McKissock and Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney bring the reality of segregation to life in Nashville through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl. (Ages 3–7)

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr., written by Jean Marzollo, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Pinckney’s stunning and beautiful illustrations and Marzollo’s spare text make this a terrific book to introduce preschoolers to Martin Luther King and the civil rights struggle. (Ages 3–7)

No Mirrors in My Nana's House (Musical CD and book), written by Ysaye M. Barnwell, illustrated by Synthia Saint James. A young granddaughter's joyful tribute to her Nana composed by Barnwell and sung by world renowned "Sweet Honey in the Rock" on the CD. The CD also has a spoken-word recording of the book. (Ages 3–8)

The Baby on the Way, by Karen English, illustrated by Sean Qualls. A warm and evocative book about grandparents and family traditions based on African American traditions. (Ages 4–8)

Show Way, written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott. In this Newbery Honor Book, Woodson uses a “Show Way,” a quilt sewn with secret meanings, to tell her family’s history of African American women from slavery and to trace the history of the civil rights movement to the present. Talbott’s exquisite illustrations will inspire readers to explore their own family history. (Ages 4–8)

Mr. Williams, written and illustrated by Karen Barbour. A beautifully illustrated retelling of one man’s oral history of the hardships of African American rural life in the '30s and '40s. (Ages 4–8)

Sky Sash So Blue, written by Libby Hathorn, illustrated by Benny Andrews. The special sky-blue sash that a young slave girl offers to give her older sister for her wedding dress becomes a lifelong tie between them. This inspiring book depicts a slave family story from the perspective of a child who turns fabric into art and uses hope and joy to transcend sorrow and oppression. Hathorn’s simple rhyming narrative story of a slave who secretly makes a wedding dress out of scraps and patches and the extraordinary bright fabric collage illustrated by Andrews will captivate children. (Ages 4–8)

Visiting Langston, written by Willie Perdomo, illustrated by Bryan Collier. This is an inspiring, poetic book about an African American girl anticipating a visit to the Harlem brownstone of Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes. Perdomo’s poetry and Collier’s watercolor and collage bring to life the first half of 20th-century Harlem. (Ages 4–8)

For Young School-Age Children

I Saw Your Face, illustrated by Tom Feelings, text by Kwame Dawes. Feelings is a widely acclaimed illustrator who illustrates history “through the multiplication of faces” while Dawes creates stories around the faces Feelings sketches. (Ages 5–10)

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr., written by David A. Adler, illustrated by Robert Casilla. A beautifully illustrated, easy-to-read biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Also worth reading by Adler: A Picture Book of Rosa Parks and A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman. (Ages 5–8)

The Village That Vanished, written by Ann Grifalconi, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. A folklore tale of quick-witted African villagers who draw on the spirits of their ancestors to hide from approaching slavers. This is a story of community solidarity and resourcefulness overcoming evil. (Ages 6–10)

For Older School-Age Children

Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis. Narrator 11-year-old Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves. Elijah ends up on a journey and becomes exposed to the horrors of slavery. This Newbery Honor book is at times funny, exciting, thrilling, suspenseful, and deeply moving; a subtle, original story by a wonderful writer. (Age 9-12)

A Friendship for Today, by Patricia C. McKissack. Rosemary, who is black, develops an unlikely friendship with mean Grace Hamilton, considered "white trash" by classmates, after school integration in 1955. Rosemary is a plucky character with wry observations on life and people and the book offers a great view of life in the 1950’s. (Age 9-12)

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn. An engaging and inspiring look at the contributions of 10 women from former slave and abolitionist Sojourner Truth to the first black congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm. Pinkney tells the stories of Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and others — stories of hardship and struggle, determination and strength. Alcorn's beautiful and exciting oil painting illustrations bring life to each story. This is a good read aloud for kindergarten and young school-age children. (Ages 8–12)

There are several good source books that help children explore and understand the history and contributions of African Americans. Good sources are Black Books Galore’s Guide to Great African American Children's Books and Black Books Galore!: Guide to More Great African American Children's Books, written by Donna Rand and Toni Trent Parker.

Below are additional good choices about African American lives, history, and culture:

For Preschool Children and Young School-Age Children

Rap A Tap Tap, written and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Through beautiful watercolor illustrations and bouncy, captivating text in Rap a Tap Tap, Leo and Diane Dillon tell the story of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, an extraordinary, groundbreaking dancer who brought tap from the streets to the world. He was one of the most popular entertainers of the first half of the 20th century. This is a beautiful, terrific, and joyful book on dance and music and a springboard for discussion on an important period in American history. (Ages 3–6)

Mr. George Baker, written by Amy Hest, illustrated by Jon Muth. George is a 100-year-old jazz musician who has decided to learn to read. Everyday he waits for the school bus along with his young neighbor, Harry. At school, while Harry learns to read, so does George with a group of grown-ups. Harry narrates the story and the extraordinary watercolor illustrations depict the warm relationship between the white boy and the African American man. (Ages 4–8)

My Dream of Martin Luther King, written and illustrated by Faith Ringgold, the award-winning creator of Tar Beach and Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky. Ringgold provides an extraordinarily powerful picture of King's childhood and experiences of segregation, prejudice, and protest. (Ages 4–8)

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., written by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier. This picture book biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. uses King’s words along with paper collages and watercolor artwork to tell an age-appropriate version of the civil rights leader’s life story. (Ages 4–8)

Yesterday I Had the Blues, written by Jeron Ashford Frame, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. This is a beautifully illustrated, wonderfully quirky book about everyday life and having the blues. An African American boy laments his blue day and goes on to describe his other days and moods and the feelings of the people around him using the colors of the rainbow.(Ages 4–8)

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, written by Carle Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. A beautifully dramatic picture book about Harriet Tubman and her religious inspiration, using the words of spirituals. (Ages 4–8)

For Younger School-Age Children

Henry's Freedom Box, written by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. The true story of Henry "Box" Brown, a runaway slave from Virginia who "mailed himself to freedom" in a cramped wooden crate. This is an amazing story of courage and ingenuity. (Ages 5–8)

When Marian Sang, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick. About the 20th-century life of Marian Anderson and how she overcame racial barriers with a voice heard and loved worldwide. We follow Marian from her childhood, singing in church in Philadelphia, through her rejection from a music school that refused to take "coloreds," to her success in the concert halls of Europe, and back to America, where she finally receives acclaim, despite the challenges of racism. Brian’s Selznick's carefully researched, sepia-toned, acrylic illustrations are extraordinary and capture Marian’s soulful determination. (Ages 5–8)

Li’l Dan, The Drummer Boy: A Civil War Story, written and illustrated by Romare Bearden. This extraordinary book is based on the stunning collage illustrations of famed African American artist Romare Bearden; and tells the powerful story of a slave boy dealing with his new-found freedom. Included is a CD with Maya Angelou reading this poignant story. (Ages 5–10)

Ellington Was Not a Street, written by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Poet and playwright Ntozake Shange offers a lyrical reflection on her childhood and the many noted African Americans who often gathered in her home, from Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie to W.E.B. DuBois and African leader Kwame Nkrumah. Beautiful full-page paintings capture the times and the "men who changed the world.” (Ages 5–10)

Love to Langston, written by Tony Medina, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Harlem poet Tony Medina offers a poem of loving biographical tribute to one of America's most cherished poets, Langston Hughes. The bold, beautiful illustrations by R. Gregory Christie complement the text. (Ages 5–10)

For Older School-Age Children

Through My Eyes, written by Ruby Bridges, illustrated by Margo Lundell. Bridges gives voice to her innocent 6-year-old self who every day walked through a mob of howling, angry protestors to integrate the New Orleans public schools in 1960. Bridges recounts how she innocently thought at the time that, "Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate" was a jump rope chant, even while the mob was carrying a black doll in a coffin. Many sepia-toned period photographs and excerpts from newspaper articles, comments by her teacher, and a timeline place her story within the context of the larger Civil Rights Movement. This book is a 1999 Parents' Choice® Gold Award Winner. (Ages 8–12)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963, written by Christopher Paul Curtis. The Watson family heads from Michigan to the deep south of Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 to straighten out fourth grader Kenny by depositing him at the home of his strict grandmother. This Newbery Medal-winning book is both funny and moving. Kenny narrates his family’s trip into the pivotal time and place in civil rights history — the bombing of a Baptist Church with four little girls inside. (Ages 8–12)

Only Passing Through, written by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. A powerful picture book biography of one the most remarkable women of the 19th century. Sojourner Truth was a slave sold three times by age 13 and watched her parents die of cold and hunger. She became one of the abolitionist movement’s strongest voices. Christie’s dramatic impressionist illustrations complement Rockwell’s moving storytelling. (Ages 9–11)

A Dream of Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1966, by Diane McWhorter. This is a brilliant, well-illustrated history of the Civil Rights Movement centered on Birmingham, based on McWhorter's prize-winning book, Carry Me Home. (Age 9 and up)

The Old African, by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Lester, with Pinkney’s powerful illustrations, has done a wonderful job chronicling the African American experience of slavery to young readers. Other notable books by Lester are To Be a Slave and Day of Tears. (Age 9 and up)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


After a week of pasting, drying, sculpting, more pasting, painting, designing, cutting, sewing, and hot gluing, Dane has finished his George Washington puppet.

His presentation is on Friday, and last night he said he plans to hold his puppet in his hand and say something like this:

Hi, I'm George Washington. I was the General during the Revolutionary War. I was also the first President of the United States.

Then Dane plans to tell the story of the Crossing of the Delaware, when the soldiers crossed the cold and icy Delaware in the middle of the night on Christmas to surprise the Hessians and win an important victory for the revolutionaries.

But Dane has to iron out the details of that one and get them in good order so he can tell a great story.

We'll work on that tonight. After the General's nose has been properly cleaned.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Published in the Christian Science Monitor!

Okay, I missed Month One of my goal to "have something published every month for 2010" - but just by one day!

Today the Christian Science Monitor's Home Forum published "That Bike," as "Pedaling into a new way of life," and I'm so excited. (They even published my photo.)

Maybe I'll count is as a "January" publication anyway - because I got the check in the mail today and it was dated January 28, 2010.

How much was the check for? Well, in the interest of keeping it real, I'll tell you: 75 smacks. Writers DO NOT grow rich quickly.

But we grow. And that's what I'm planning to keep doing.

I'll let you know what I drum up for February.