Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The story is finished. Now what?

I finished revising my story, a young adult novel. Again. I added another layer and am feeling pretty good about it. Now what? Should I query the agent I met at the writer's retreat last spring? She read the first 25 pages and gave me a positive critique and suggestions for improvement to help deepen the story. Should I hold off and wait for the retreat coming up in March? Should I query publishers or should I query agents? So many questions. What's the right way to go?

One of my writer friends, who also happens to be an editor, recently posted a blog on her site that was very interesting and got me questioning. She wrote that editors are inundated with requests and querys this time of year and that if writers want to be noticed, and not be just one in a pile of slush, they should hold off. I am eager to get my story out there but should I take her advice? Should I wait a month or so? Or should I take the plunge and send it out now?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Feeling thankful...

It's the day after Thanksgiving and I'm in a very relaxed, easy-going kind of mood. Yesterday was frantic with preparing a feast for my family, including my parents and brother, Dell, and his wife, Liz. My daughter, Kyla, was busy as well, making two pumpkin pies, one a cheesecake and one with a crumbly nut topping, green beans with almonds, a sweet potato pie, and an apple sausage dressing. We cooked up a storm and had fun watching it all come together. It was a special Thanksgiving as we haven't had my parents here in five years, since they moved down to Florida. It's been nice having them back in New England and it was a special treat having them join us for Thanksgiving.

As I looked around the dining room table yesterday, I couldn't help but be thankful. Thankful for my parents who are now close by, thankful for my three children who aren't children anymore, but fun-loving, creative adults. Thankful for Dell and Liz, who graciously drove from Lowell, MA to Orleans to pick up my parents and bring them to my house in R.I., and who always have interesting topics of conversation to share, from books to movies to the latest Etsy craze. And last but not least, I'm thankful for Don for putting up with me and giving us a second chance at something new.

I feel blessed. And it's times like these when we can relax and reflect on what is truely important and meaningful in our lives. For in another day or two, it's back to work and the start of the most wonderful time of the year, if not the most hectic. So for now, relax, have some more pie, and enjoy the rest of the long holiday weekend.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Falling into winter...

Fall is definitely here in southern New England. The temperature was 40 degrees when I tumbled out of bed this morning. Brrrrrr...I love fall with the changing of the leaves to shades of gold and red, biting into crisp, tart apples, and the smell of wood stoves burning. What I don't love is the anticipation of frigid temperatures and icy walkways that come with winter. What I love, though, is the first snowfall; walking through the fresh powder, tilting my head to feel the light patter of snowflakes in my face; watching Hannah, race down the driveway, her snout digging through the snow, making tunnels.

Am I crazy? I am a dichotomy of loves. I love snow when I'm home to enjoy it or when I'm cross-country skiing. I hate snow when I'm about to leave for work or about to leave work for home and snowflakes swirl across the windshield, blocking my view. I'm sure I'm not alone in this love/hate relationship with winter. But as winter looms in the distance, I can't help but wonder if my friends and family who live in warmer climates have the right idea.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Beads on a string...

I love language, the way words taste on my tongue. The way words can be strung together like beads on a string. This is a beautiful way to think about writing stories and, I must admit, this is how my mom described it to me once. She talked about her love for language and how with thousands of words to choose from, it's how you string them together that makes a sentence, a paragraph, a story. It's how words come together in a wonderful way. My writing mentor, Anita Riggio, described it in the same fashion. Or did she say pearls on a necklace? I love this thought and I love the image it portrays.

When I teach poetry, I call it bumping words together. Colliding words together in a new or unusual pattern. For example, honey rouge, strawberry bark, apple moon, ocean tangerine, lavender parsnips.
Now you try it...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Cape Cod state of mind...

I just got back from a week on the Cape with my college friends. We've been renting a house in Eastham since our kids were little, for about 15 years or so. There have been different configurations of people, adults and children, each year, depending on jobs, finances, conflicts, etc. At our peak, I think there were 11 kids with 5 moms. In ONE house! Can you imagine? The house belonged to a childhood friend's brother who rented it out in the summer. It was a huge place, with an assortment of bedrooms (it would have to, right?), a large kitchen, a patio out back, and a massive beech tree in the front. One of my most vivid memories is taking pictures of the kids draped in the branches of this gorgeous tree.

Now fast forward to 2010. Four friends without kids, at least most of the week (some of the kids came out for the weekend), in a quaint two-bedroom cottage, within walking distance to the bay. Quite different from years' past and quite relaxing. We always talked about what it would be like when the kids were grown and now it's here. We trudge down the dozens of steps over the dunes at Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, chairs and umbrellas in tow, in search of the perfect spot to catch some rays and tell beach stories. We meander through the shops in Martha's Vineyard after taking a wind-blown ride on the ferry. We find "our" deck overlooking Provincetown Harbor and sip summertime favorite cocktails while taking pictures of the fabulous view. Some of us ride the waves in the frigid ocean on boogie boards at low tide. It's a week that we look forward to all year.

Cape Cod - a beachy, casual, adventurous state of mind.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Lovely Writer Friend

Dark clouds hovered as rain splashed on thirsty summer leaves. The beginning of a novel? No, the setting for a lovely brunch at my writer friend, Kim Fusco's house recently. Several other writer friends and I had a delicious potluck while catching up on our latest writing projects and the kids' newest adventures. Kim even read the first page of her second novel, The Wonder of Charlie Anne, which debuts on August 10. As Kim describes it, a story of triumph over adversity. It's a middle grade novel set in the 1930's in a rural New England town during the depression. I had the pleasure of reading it last summer when Kim was in the last revision stage and needed advice on the teaching of reading to a child who has difficulty in that area. Something I know lots about. It's a beautifully written book with characters that sing to each of us. If you haven't already, you must check out Kim's first book, Tending To Grace, which was hailed as "stunning."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Summertime and the reading is easy...

Now that it's almost summer, it's time to pick out some good beach reads. I have several already piled up on the hand-painted cupboard by my bed. Summer is the best time to read for pure enjoyment. To get into a great book and be able to read for hours is wonderfully satisfying. I hope to instill this love of reading in my students. Some of them step into my classroom loving books, while others struggle to decode words and have difficulty comprehending what they've read. Some would rather play video games and watch TV. It's my job, as a teacher, to help make reading come to life for these kids. When I can achieve this, then I feel like I'm making a difference in their lives.

A very special student who I've had the pleasure of working with this year, is finally beginning to enjoy books. We discovered together that he likes to read about history, about events that happened in the past. I think he became fascinated by the fact that these people lived before us. "Before me?" he would ask. "Before you?" I would nod and say, "Yes, before us." We would do the math together and discover how many years ago these events took place. And he was intrigued by the fact that these events really happened, they weren't just made up stories. This was quite a revelation to his parents and me, and quite exciting for him. He finally asked to keep reading. And his parents finally began to read to him and to realize the benefits of just reading for the pleasure of it, not only to read to decode words and to become more fluent but to take pleasure in the act of reading. How wonderful for them. How satisfying for me.

My own three children are readers and this, as you can imagine, is a thrill for me. Maybe I didn't do everything right, but I gave them a love for reading. Being readers ourselves can be one of the best gifts we can give to children. It may take time for some, but eventually they come around. Like I wrote about in an earlier post, I didn't read often for pleasure as a child. I read because I had to. I read for tests and book reports and to write papers. My parents read by lamp light every evening, and my siblings read a lot, as well. Eventually, I, too, became a lover of books and reading. A natural progression.

By the way, what are your summer reading picks? I just started "The Murderer's Daughters" by Randy Susan Myers. A book recommended by my brother, Dell, as he knows the author. He has taken writing courses with Ms. Myers at the Grub Street Writers' Center in Cambridge, MA. It's quite compelling so far. As a matter of fact, it's calling me right now...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Packing Up...

I'm in Florida with my brother and sister-in-law helping my parents pack up their belongings. My parents are moving back to Cape Cod. My sister is staying in Florida but moving to the next town over. My parents are both in their 80's and miss their kids, grandchildren and friends, and want to move back to the place they love best. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. My parents have loved the Cape since as far back as I can remember. When my sisters and I were very young and living in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, my parents decided to check out a place they had been doing some research on. They were looking for the perfect place for my father to write "the great American novel." So, in the middle of winter, they drove to the small man made island of Cape Cod where they stayed in an old haunted Inn called The Orleans Inn. It was here they fell in love with the raw beauty of the Cape with its acres of scrub pine, grassy dunes and endless sandbars. Quiet in winter, bustling with tourists in the summer, the Cape is like nowhere else in the world. It's a haven for writers, artists, and antique dealers, and anyone who loves being close to the water. It was here that we moved.

When I was 14 and about to enter high school, my father moved the whole family to New Jersey, where he opened up a book store. That lasted about 10 months. We were all homesick for the Cape and moved back. Luckily for us, my parents hadn't sold our house but instead had rented it out to friends. We stayed in the extra rooms in the barn for the summer. Then, about five years later, my parents moved to Ithaca, NY where they opened up an antique and book shop. Surprise. Surprise. My dad went to Cornell University and loved the college town. I was at Elmira College at the time so it was nice to have my family so close. They stayed in Ithaca about two years before, you guessed it, moving back to 'ole Cape Cod. They rented a house in S. Orleans while in the process of building a passive solar house in Brewster. My parents lived in that house for about 15 years and then went on to rent several condos. Four and a half years ago, my sister, Cindy, decided she wanted to move to Florida and take my parents with her. She convinced them to go with her and they liked it. I mean, like my dad says, what's not to like? It's warm and close to the beach. Well, it didn't take long for them to start thinking about the Cape and missing its beauty and everyone there. So, here we are, getting them ready to move back to the place they call home. And I am very happy about that.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Labels for Unfocused Writers...

I must be ADD, ADHD, have severe attentional issues, hard time focusing, etc. I can say this because I work with kids with these labels and though I hate labels and labeling these kids, they might just be the right labels for us adults who can't focus. Adult writers, in particular. When it's time to get down and write, I can be so unfocused, it's ridiculous. I start to do laundry, clean the cabinets, bake some muffins, talk to my friends on Facebook, walk into the next room looking for something I can never remember. You name it, I find it and do it. And, like many writers, I have a day job that takes up much of my time. So, when I can find time to sit in front of the computer, I should be focused on my story. Or my blog. Why do I have such a hard time?

I can think about my characters and what might happen next in the story, never really knowing, of course, until I sit down to write. But as soon as I put my butt in the chair, as my mentor, Anita Riggio, used to say, my mind wanders to every place but where it should be, my work at hand. I know I'm not alone in this so perhaps we should label this phenomenon. Let's see...MW for Mind Wanderer, UIC- Unfocused In Chair, JURTC- Jumping Up Ready To Clean, BFL-Bounding For Laundry, WTCH- Walking To Clear Head, MML- Mood Music Listener, MHM-Mental Health Meanderer, CC-Closet Cleaner, PP-Patchwork Painter, and last but not least, AFB- Addicted to Facebook. I'd love to hear yours, if you're focused enough to name it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Putting things in perspective and reflecting on what is important is common this time of year, but with the news of the tragic earthquake in Haiti, it takes on even more significance. I feel grateful for what I have and try to live my life by squeezing in everything I possibly can. I know that love and family are essential pieces to a happy life and have been given a second chance to make it work. For this, I feel blessed. I view my friends as emotional sounding boards and my true life lines. Without friends, who would we have to share secrets with or to act fiercely crazy with?

There are perspectives to think about in writing, as well. Who is telling your story? Which character can best relay the story you want to tell? Several years ago, I read a book with a very unique perspective, The Lovely Bones. It was told through the point of view of a young girl, Suzie, who had been brutally murdered by her neighbor as she looked down upon her friends and family from above. She told the story of her family's unraveling with grace and beauty. It's one of my favorite books. It would have been a completely different story had it been told from the dad or sister's perspective. When I watched the movie based on this story, on the big screen, I wasn't sure what to expect. I mean how do you show a girl in the after world watching life unfold below her? Not an easy task. But somehow it worked.

Another book with a fascinating perspective is The Book Thief. This story is told from the point of view of Death in Germany during WW ll. As morbid as this premise may sound, it's a poignant story. The language...poetic. The characters...genuine. It follows the life of a young girl, Liesel, whose little brother has died and whose mother has given her up to a foster family. She discovers books and begins stealing them whenever the opportunity presents itself. This is truly a book about the power of words; how words can feed a soul.

What is your perspective? Have you read any books lately with a unique point of view?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Writing like snowflakes...

It's fascinating how stories are written, or conceived, or imagined, or created. For each writer, there is a unique process. It seems no two writers write the same. We are as diverse as snowflakes, in this regard. Some use outlines. Some wait for inspiration to strike, tapping into the wire. Some let the story unfold in front of them, allowing the characters to lead them onward. I think I'm the latter...I love to see where the characters will go, what they will say, how they react to each other in the situation of the moment. I love when a story takes a turn and I have no idea where it's going. Well, I shouldn't say that. I have a vague idea of where it's going and how it will end but the meanderings in the middle can be random and adventurous. I love when a character says something that surprises me. It's like my fingers are flowing over the keys like a river and I have no control over the current. It carries me far away from the shore. To me, it's the best thing about writing; the surprises that happen when I'm not looking. Like soft snowflakes drifting from the clouds at the onset of a storm, landing on the frozen ground like jewels.

While working on my latest story, this happened. And it wasn't what the character said or did, exactly, it was something she didn't do. I was writing away when suddenly my main character, Tess, decided she wasn't going to eat her dinner. Instead she pushed it around her plate. Now this may not sound significant but it made me pause and wonder. Why wasn't she eating? She had made a wonderful salad with greens and tofu but, no matter, she wasn't eating and this was quite telling to me. This was her way of feeling in control of her somewhat, out of control, situation. And I didn't plan it. I didn't foresee it coming. No, not at all. Tess, had made up her mind at the dinner table that she was going to find a way to feel empowered. I have no idea how this will affect Tess and her story, but I'm eager to find out.

I'd love to hear about your meandering snowflakes...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Becoming a reader...

I wasn't a big reader as a child. No, that was my older sister, not me. I was too busy climbing trees, making forts in the woods, playing pick-up baseball games at the field down the road. I couldn't sit still long enough to read a book. I hate admitting that, but it's true. My sister, Robin, read enough books for both of us. She could be found curled up in the corner of the couch reading at any given moment. I didn't really understand her love for books or maybe I envied her or perhaps I wanted to be her opposite. Who really understands the dynamics of siblings? From my experience with my own three children, it seems they seek the attention of their parents and are willing to do just about anything to their brothers and sisters to get it.

My love for books came much later, when my first child was born. I bundled up Justin and strolled him to the small town library in Whitinsville, MA, for our weekly book fix. I had discovered the children's book room and, with Justin in tow, devoured most of them. Quickly it was apparent that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to write for children. Starting with some very bad made-up stories, I began to write off and on as my kids were growing up. It wasn't until I met my mentor, Anita Riggio, at a writer's retreat and took her workshop, that I began to write the story I was meant to write. More about that in a later blog.

Now, I read mostly young adult books with a sprinkling of adult books mixed in. At the moment, I'm reading "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie. It's an honestly brutal, yet hilariously funny, coming-of-age story of a Native American teen trying to rise above his sad circumstances on an Indian reservation. Arnold Spirit Jr. is an intelligent misfit born with physical problems, who wants more out of life than what the reservation can offer him. Clearly, Sherman Alexie is painting a picture of the struggles American Indians face in this country, and does it with a very poignant and original story. If you are looking for a book that is hard to put down and will keep you giggling, then this one is not to miss.

On my bedside table, I have about four books waiting to be read. Have you read any good books lately?

Friday, January 1, 2010


This is my first blog and my first random post so I suppose I should begin at the beginning. I am a writer. There, I said it. Not so scary as I thought it would be. I come from a family of writers. My mom was a nursery school teacher before she had kids (my two sisters, my brother and me) and once she did, she began to write childcare articles for mothering/housewife type magazines. My dad started out writing ideas for cartoonists for The New Yorker Magazine. That's what he was doing when my parents met. They lived in neighboring towns in New Jersey and met in their twenties. Later he worked as a copy editor once my mom and dad got married, after six months as forest rangers in California atop a mountain for their honeymoon. Eventually he was a high school English teacher at a private school for girls on the Cape and, finally, an antiquarian book dealer. All the while, though, my parents were writing. Dad wrote mostly articles for notable papers such as The New York Times and The Boston Globe and, in later years, short humor pieces. Mom worked on short column pieces for newspapers and magazines and, in later years, romance novels.

I grew up surrounded by books, magazines, maps, pamplets, and antiques of all sorts with price tags on them. For, you see, when we moved to Orleans, MA, on Cape Cod, when I was a little girl, my mom started an antique shop with a woman she met on the beach who had similiar interests, which turned out to be very old collectibles. We moved into an old sea captain's house near Rock Harbor and thus began our life on Cape Cod, giving us many adventures to write about.

My siblings are writers, as well, though we all write in different genres. I write young adult novels. My sister, Cindy, writes romance novels. My brother, Dell, writes contemporary adult novels. And my sister, Robin, is a poet but is beginning to write for young adults.

Now you have a little snapshot into my life and how it all began. My beginnings...