Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Surprise Went Off Without A Hitch!

Dane's surprise party was great.

You should've seen all these kids at the playground after school yesterday, totally in cahoots on the whole surprise and not spoiling it a bit.

I gathered a few of them at a time out there to tell them Dane still had no idea why they had all miraculously been able to stay after school and play, and that we were going to come together in a few minutes to blindfold Dane and hop in cars to go to Yogurt Hut. Then the kids would say cute things like "Oh, cool! We can tell him stuff like 'We're passing your house now, Dane,' or 'We're at the airport now, Dane,' [and so on and so on] to fool him when we drive him away."

The cousins' van and a car of 3 boys got to Yogurt Hut first and they all hid behind the pool table and the air hockey table. Four other boys then walked a blindfolded Dane from street parking, up the stairs, telling him we were at the dump.

When we got him upstairs we took off his blindfold and everyone jumped up and yelled "Surprise!"

Then we heard several rounds of "Thriller," "Beat It," "Boom Boom Pow" and "Firefly" on the karaoke machine as kids ate pizza, ate their yogurt sundaes, played pool, foosball, air hockey, darts, and board games.

It was a super fun time, a little bit exhausting for a parent, but a great terrific fabulous birthday for a 10-year-old boy.

Will post pictures when I recover. They'll probably just get tacked on to the end of this blog, so come back in a day or so.

Now Mick and I are off to volunteer at the MARA fundraiser, an auction benefitting the Mt. A Racing team...

(I've got 400 words of my short story started for the NYC Flash Fiction contest. Lots of work left for late tonight and all day tomorrow.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Attempting the Impossible: Surprise!

Today I'm attempting the impossible: a surprise birthday party for my ten-year-old. I can't wait to see if it works.

I let all the parents know that if it turns out to be an un-surprise, there'll be no hard feelings. I just thought it'd be really fun to try.

So far, this is the plan:

Dane's pals and Aubs and the cousins will meet us after school at the playground. The kids know they can tell Dane they've been allowed to play with him after school. And then we'll pile them all into vans and drive them to Yogurt Hut for two hours of yogurt sundaes, pizza, foosball, darts, air hockey, pool, and karaoke! (I've rented the room so 12 kids and several adults can have the joint to ourselves.)

After that, some kids are getting picked up, and we'll take the rest home.

Two of Dane's best buddies have also been invited to stay for an overnighter, where hopefully I can drum up How to Train Your Dragon to follow some outdoor play and Legos.

Dane's birthday's not until Tuesday, and just this morning he was seriously trying to figure out with Mick what he could do for his party ("Maybe bowling?") and who he'd invite (everyone we've got coming today!).

The only glitch is that I don't really have that moment planned when he figures out what we're up to and we all yell "Surpise!"


I have a feeling it'll pan out just perfectly though.

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Results for Challenge #2

I took third place in my group again! That means my points put me in the top 5 in my group, advancing me to the next round.

I wrote a 999-word short short with the following prompt:
*Romantic Comedy
*a B & B
*a snow shovel
There were 20 groups with 22 people in each group; the top 5 in each advance to form new groups now.

Tonight at midnight (well, 9pm here) I get my third prompt.

Click here to see my group's results. At that link, you'll have access to all groups and prompts and scores.

I have to admit, I'm so curious to see what it'll be like to participate in this contest when I have to write in another genre. (I've had comedy twice.) Who knows where my brain will go with Sci-Fi or Horror or Drama.

I just hope it goes somewhere!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A REAL Love Letter: "Tree" Has a Home

This letter was emailed to people all over America today:

Dear ___,

The fourth issue of The Writer's Workshop Review is now live! Take a look at

The issue features an interview with award-winning writer Ivan Doig and an excerpt from his latest novel, Work Song.

The issue also includes Shaul Hendel's "Submission Guidelines Guide," a cheeky riposte to the annoying demands of literary magazine editors (not ours of course!); "Tree," Anjie Seewer Reynolds' lovely meditation on aging and tree climbing; "Soupe du Jour," Meredith Escudier's deliciously savory tale about the simple pleasures of soup and the French genius for making it; "Pasta Agonistes," my cautionary tale about the perils of culinary overconfidence and the realization that achieving Italian la dolce vita is anything but simple and easy.

We hope you enjoy the fourth issue of The Writer's Workshop Review. Please let us know what you think. We look forward to hearing from you!

All best,

Nicholas O'Connell
Publisher/ Editor
The Writer's Workshop Review

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ten Eleven Ninety-Seven: xo

This year I realized that you've made me laugh
every single day I've known you. 
Happy 13th Anniversary. We're really lucky we found each other.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


When I lived in Marin I loved going to my writing support group, The Writing Mamas -- and there were certain mamas there who were my favorite. Jessica O'Dwyer is one of them.

She was working incredibly hard on a manuscript about adopting her child(ren) from Guatemala. I'd see drafts of chapters in small groups, I'd review pages with her in Joyce Maynard's living room, I'd watch her get essays published in The Chronicle and on-air at KQED, and I'd always think that Jessica O'Dwyer was going to go the distance and get that thing published.

Well, it's published! By Seal Press! And Publisher's Weekly just gave it a rave review:

Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir
Jessica O’Dwyer, Seal, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-58005-334-1
O’Dwyer’s harrowing and moving journey to adopt a Guatemalan baby offers a look into one person’s experience in the frustratingly convoluted process of adopting from unscrupulous “facilitators.” O’Dwyer had gone through an early divorce and menopause at age 32 before marrying Tim, a divorced dermatologist over 50. They put together an adoption dossier and found an L.A. agency that promised a quick adoption while cutting the bureaucratic red tape. Intent on adopting a certain “Stefany Mishell” (they fell in love with from her online photo), the desperate couple soon discovered that the agency’s methods were dilatory and sloppy, neglecting the important legal paperwork, such as filing the requisite DNA test, and using shady notarios (private attorneys), so that in the end the promised six-month adoption extended over a year. Moreover, O’Dwyer’s occasional visits to Guatemala, where she met Stefany’s foster family and spent a weekend with the baby at the Camino Real hotel in Guatemala City, turned into a permanent residency, as she moved to a city north of the capital, Antiqua, to live with Stefany (now Olivia) until family court finalized the adoption. Dealing with the greedy foster family, managing the baby’s early separation anxiety, navigating the middlemen and interminable waiting are all deftly handled in O’Dwyer’s somber tale. (Nov.)
If you like a good read, if you crave some good new nonfiction, and/or if you have any interest in international adoption, read Mamalita. I guarantee it'll be good.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Dane's Hugo Cabret Poster

Dane's completed his movie poster (11x14) for his first book report. The directions say to create a movie poster with images on the poster that you would emphasize if you were the director. The directions also say to use bright colors so the poster stands out while on display.

We're 1 for 2 on that score.

Dane chose to sketch in black and white because the Hugo Cabret novel has black and white sketch illustrations; the book also focuses on the black-and-white movie career of George Melies`, who created that kind of moon up in the corner with the telescoping eye. I don't think Dane'll get docked for this.

He's still working on the report. He's got a first draft that needs revision and editing, but it should be ready by Wednesday's due date.

Nose to the Grindstone

Sixty-one down, five to go. In about an hour I'll be finished with round one of essay-grading, which has taken me about, yikes, ten hours.  (?)

Tomorrow and Wednesday I teach at RCC, and on Friday I teach my new course, "Spook-tober Science," 8-4 at ScienceWorks. I'll have about twenty students. (I'll do another, lighter, post later on how much fun we'll have.)

I'm slightly overwhelmed by the workload I've added to housecleaning, yardwork, and childrearing, but I'm teachng 9 credits this quarter so our family can take an amazing trip this Christmas.

After the trip, I'll just teach 3-6 credits every quarter and hold things together a little more smoothly at home.

I'm going to add a separate post after this (see above) to share a little joy.