Sunday, December 23, 2012

A fitting carol for this particular advent...

The Coventry Carol 

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crying for us all

Our church service this morning ended with the children singing from the back of the nave. It sounded just like this, but without the bells:

Go Now in Peace.

It is Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice Sunday. Our priest had to focus on joy, despite the terrible happenings of Friday. She had no choice but to weave in the reality of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And she did a good job.

Since the news hit, the sorrow has rested like a weight above my gut. And it is nothing, my sorrow. But it wasn't until I heard the voices of the little ones rising up from the back of the church that I cried.

I'm still not sure what I was crying about. The children themselves, or the broken soul who did the killing, or the people of our nation who now bicker and posit about how to fix it. The gun control movement arises from it's relative slumber, asserting that if only we controlled weapons better, it couldn't happen. But of course that is nonsense (not that I have a horse in the gun race). In 1927 a man blew up an elementary school in Bath, Michegan, killing 38 students and a number of adults. Any mind that is dead set on killing can find a way, and the internet is here to help.

Others say that mental health care overhaul is needed. Or increased funding for education, and support programs. Still others list violent video games as the culprit.

I haven't yet read what the experts think the poor boy's motives were, and I can't imagine being tortured by the kind of evil he must have been tortured with. But I do know this:

We are a nation which has decided by law and by mindset that it is OK to kill the babies in our very wombs. In 2008, the last year for which we have collected data, 1,212,350 abortions were performed. Since 1978, more than 50 million babies have been aborted.

How can we expect young people who are raised in a culture that says killing children in the womb is a perfectly valid choice to understand that taking the life of those more capable of defending themselves is not a valid option?

Taking away guns and video games, or improving our mental health system will not stop situations like Sandy Hook from happening. The corrosive action of evil is too pernicious for such a surface level solution. Any nation that treats the destruction of human life by the millions as if it is merely a feminine hygiene issue is doomed for much suffering.

And so I cry. For us all.

Friday, November 16, 2012

On Being Young

Turns out you can be a spring chicken at nearly any age. You just have to hang out in the right places.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Future is Now. Apparently.

I came across this scene while walking around the local CVS parking lot with Charlie yesterday:

It seems that we have a parking lot philosopher in our midst.

Or a prognosticator, like the developer of this film from 1955:

Or maybe a music fan. There are a few songs by that title kicking around. Some worse than others. (I'll let you do the YouTubing to find out.)

But regardless of which category the painter falls into, I wonder about the choice of medium. Why a rusty iron pole? Why the CVS parking lot?

The more I walk around in this world, the more questions I have.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update

National Novel Writing Month progresses, and I'm surviving.

Better than surviving, even. I like it.

I'm not really grumpy. I don't look like this yet:

I've done pretty well in keeping on top of my word counts. The stuff I'm producing isn't mindless claptrap. I haven't had to resort to having a character sing the star spangled banner. Yet.

So far, so good.

19,822 words written this month. 42,421 in the book total.

This just may work.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mystery Photo: What is it? Or rather, why?

Yesterday I helped sort items for St. Paul's Church Fall Festival. While there, I came across this little guy.

I don't understand it. He appears to be a hedgehog with a child's Christmas sock sewn to his back.

Please tell me you have an explanation. I'm serious. Please.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween Gleanings

Look what I found on the sidewalk while walking Charlie this morning!

Halloween gleanings! My favorite!

Day 2 and I'm not yet overwhelmed or grumpy

I just completed my words for day 2 of NaNoWriMo. So far I'm off to a good start.

Check out the little progress gizmo I added to the top of the column on the right --------------->

Nifty, yes?

Feeling thankful to whoever thought up the idea of NaNoWriMo, even though it's hard to pronounce. It just might get my book wrapped up sometime within this decade.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tomorrow Hovers, Like a Dark and Stormy Night

Tomorrow I begin NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as "create an unreasonable goal and try not to kill anyone in the process month". The target is over 1,600 words per day, to complete a draft of my novel by the end of November.

You may not hear much from me during this time.

Or, what you may hear could be terse. Or worse.

Apologies in advance for anyone who gets ignored or yelled at. I'll be better in December.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Caffiene Fueled View of the Debate

I woke up this morning to the ugly realization that I forgot to buy coffee yesterday. In my world, this is a bad, bad thing.

Luckily, I quickly remembered that I'd purchased a jar of instant coffee a few weeks before, for just such an emergency. But my relief was short lived.

Perhaps I shouldn't have chosen the store brand. Maybe Folgers in my cup would have tasted a bit more like actual coffee. Or that instant java pioneer, Nescafe.

But I didn't, and it was fairly horrible. It did the job of waking me up, with none of the pleasure.

So while taking Charlie out for his morning constitutional, we stopped by the corner convenience store cum Dunkin' Donuts counter. There we picked up a bag of French Vanilla coffee for $8.99. I'd deliberately left my wallet at home and carried a $10 bill so that I wouldn't be too tempted by things deep fried and sugar crusted. But the pumpkin muffin looked delicious.

And it wasn't a donut, after all.

But the coffee was $8.99, and the muffin was $1.49. Math doesn't lie, so it didn't come home with me.

Charlie and I headed back out the door, feeling somewhat virtuous for not buying a donut, which would actually have fit within the budget. But we were also annoyed. Charlie, because they didn't give him a Munchkin like they do at the drive through. Me, because of the overall injustice.

Once outside, I looked at the bag. Turns out it actually weighs a full pound, unlike what you find in most grocery stores. That made me feel better for about 20 seconds, but then I thought about it some more. The reality is what it is: I paid $9.00 for a pound of coffee. And not yuppie high brow coffee, or granola crunchy organic coffee, or socially conscious fare trade coffee. We are talking donut shop coffee.

Sure it's delicious to a plebeian palate like mine. But it's not exactly top shelf, despite the price.

Which brought me straight around to last night's presidential debate, with it's bickering and phony smiles and contradictions, all centering (theoretically) around foreign policy. I wanted to blame them for my first world problem. I wanted them to care about real people who just want to have a reasonably priced cup of coffee in the morning that doesn't taste like caca.

A few hours later I'm here trying to view it with a bit more objectivity. It's easier now that I'm fueled by a cup of tasty, non-instant, vanilla-scented, black-tinted, liquid gold. My caffeinated brain recognizes the ridiculous nature of my complaint, particularly when contrasted against the issues that rage in the world all around us. But I think that what I experienced is also universally true.

What most of us want is simple peace. No matter what economic position we hold within this society of riches, we yearn for having our simple desires satisfied without worries being attached to each satisfaction. We want to be able to fill up our coffee pots and our gas tanks and our bellies without worrying. We want dystopian novels and apocalyptic movies to not feel so inevitable. We want international strife to be clear cut enough to know when we should be in or out.

We want to wake up and drink a cup of real coffee and face the day without fear.

I feel sorry for both candidates. Neither one can give us what we want.

Time for another cup of Joe.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I want to wonder at dust motes

While taking Charlie the Wonder Dog for his morning walk yesterday, a little girl passed by with her mom and big brother. She was probably about 4 years old. They were making slow progress, because the girl kept stopping to marvel over one thing or another. They reached a collection of stuff blown down from the branches of a large tree on a recent windy night, and the pace slowed even further. Her little voice called out "Look at this stick!" and then "Look at this one!" and "Here's a bigger stick!"

You could hear the joy in her voice as she encountered each new find. Every stick was a treasure freshly discovered.  Each one brought the same enthusiasm, as if it were the first of it's kind.

It made me think about the lack of a sense of wonder in older people (like me).

I've often heard the idea that we somehow lose the capacity for wonder, as if some facility of imagination is lost as part of the developmental process. But in thinking about the awe-filled little girl, I wondered if the opposite might be true.

Maybe the problem isn't in what is lost, but in what is added on.

For us tall people, our worlds are cluttered with details. Our brains bear the specifics of jobs and children, politics and marriage, diets and friendship. We worry about finances and plan vacations. We talk about the neighbors and the weather and the fear of mosquitoes.

Once we grow up, our scope of attention is wide. The taller we get the greater the number of things we pay attention to.

The world of a young child is insular. They aren't distracted by the millions of concerns cluttering the heads of grown ups. Their limited area of focus allows an intensity of observation and enthusiasm that older people are too scattered to attain.

Yesterday's sermon echoed my ponderings from earlier in the day. The priest spoke of her need to "grow down"; to assume the simple faith of a child in order to let go of financial concerns and other worries.

I like that idea: of growing down.

I wonder if my ability to feel amazement and beauty could be similarly boosted through the action of a conscious decision. Could I choose to narrow my focus selectively, so that I can appreciate the majesty and mystery that spin in the dust motes around us?

I'd like to think the answer is yes. I'd also like to know the answer of how.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ghost Writing for Dummies 4

Today's dazzling ghost writing opportunity reads:
I have already written a lot of this ebook. I need someone familiar with this niche that can add substance to it. The book MUST be 40,000 words (200 pages) and not full of fluff. It's for women who want to get their ex boyfriends back.

You will take what I have already written, and continue with the book, based on your ideas, research, etc.

Include spirituality. Include tips on how to behave in the relationship so that it doesn't happen again. Ways to become happy and whole within yourself so you attract the right person.

You will be a ghost writer.

Budget: Under $500
(Remember: no fluff.)

The amazing thing? This post has already received 5 proposals.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I listen with my body

I finally figured out why I don't like cool jazz. Before now I just thought I wasn't smart enough to understand it. (Maybe that's because I had to Google it to make sure I didn't look stupid by using the wrong name.)

The moment of epiphany came while I was standing in a hotel lobby, waiting for a shuttle to Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston. I was exhausted and therefore easily irritated. I drank my scalding cup of free coffee and listened to the piped in music.

It was the kind of jazz I hate. The kind that leaves me puzzled.

So I puzzled over why they would choose to play it. And I tried, for the first time, to dissect what it is that I don't like.

The first thing I realized is that cool jazz doesn't sound good.


It's often a bit discordant. So I analyzed what it is that makes it that way.

Turns out that the individual instruments don't seem to go together.

In most of the music to which I'm exposed, orchestral, popular, classical, etc. all the pieces are written to come together in a harmonious whole. They complement each other. They blend and meld to create harmony and beauty.

Not so in this type of jazz.

I realized that in this style of music the individual elements are more important than the whole.

This seems to fit with the cultural milieu from which it arose. Rugged individualism. The self as more important than the group. The style seems to embody a "look at me" mentality.

In order to appreciate cool jazz, you have to suspend your focus on the whole and tune in to the performance of the specific. Tune in to what the drummer is doing. Focus on the pianist. Follow the flute. On their own, each does interesting things. Enjoyable things even. But when mixed together it often creates discord.

I seem to respond to that dissonance on a sub-cognitive level. Music is physical and emotional. It evokes. The form disorients me, like I'm on an auditory merry go round, and I don't like it.

(ALERT: I'm about to do something I've never done before. I'm going to make a sports analogy.)

The approach would never work for a sports team. Imagine if all the players on the field at a Red Sox game did their own thing. How well would they perform if the guy on second base was busy flexing his butt muscles hoping for a close up, while the player from first was headed his way? What if the outfielders pirouetted and twirled so that they didn't see balls flying their direction?

It can't work that way. In order to achieve a goal, team members have to be woven together seamlessly. In most forms of music, at least Western music, band and orchestra leaders, choral directors and musicians work hard to create musical unity.

But not in cool jazz.

This probably is not an epiphany for any one but me. And it is not meant as an insult to those who do appreciate the form. But I just don't get it.

I'm not enough of an intellectual. I listen with my body.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Emergency Rooms and the Persistance of Nasal Cilia

It's hard to find a lot of positives about spending time in emergency rooms, doctor's offices, and diagnostic imaging centers. There are lots of opportunities to pray for people, and that's good. It builds gratitude for those who work and serve the hurting in those places, and gratitude is a good thing. And you get to read magazines that you might not normally pick up.

While playing the waiting game the other night, my one magazine option was Popular Science. From it I learned that you shouldn't pull out those pesky nose hairs because the nose is apparently a dirty, dirty place. Pulling can lead to infection.


Even more fascinating is the fact that our nasal passages are filled with cilia which are constantly in motion, sweeping particulates into gunk deposits that we get rid of later in various ways. Apparently the cilia live on even once we have passed away, and forensic scientists can peek at it to help determine time of death.

I had no idea.

You learn the strangest things in the strangest places.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ghost Writing for Dummies 3

Today's mind-blowing emailed ghost writing opportunity:
I am looking for a Ghost Writer to Finish a thriller I am writing.

You will need to read, edit, and finish a 75,000 word book. So far I have written 28,000 words.

The writer must be familiar with thriller writers and have a great command of American English and World Politics.

If you are upto this task apply with your CV, testimonials and sample work

Budget: $90.00 

Are these people out of their minds?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ghost Writing for Dummies 2

Here's another fantabulous ghost writing opportunity, if you happen to be a Wiccan. And desperate.


I am looking for a gifted ghost writer to write a special report.
About 10,000 words.  Budget: $100
I will need it in a week. 
I need someone with experience in the Wicca field.
I am looking for a long-term relationship, since i have other projects like this one.
Please send me a sample of your work.

Many thanks

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Help me Charlie!

Sometimes I wonder if I have too many writing ideas. Perhaps I should be more like my wire fox terrier, Charlie, who's single minded stubbornness is both frustrating and inspiring. Instead, I keep thinking of new things I'd like to write, meanwhile the existing projects get not enough attention, and take forever to finish.

Here's what I'm working on:
  • The Great American Novel
  • A "reluctant reader" middle grade chapter book for boys
  • Two magazine feature story pitches
  • Initial interviews and structuring of a biography pitch
  • Transformation of the Charlie picture book into a chapter book
  • Several blogs, none of which gets enough attention.
Hopefully my new writing schedule is going to help. I'm shipping myself off to the library every weekday and while there am committed to steering clear of social media and all things distracting. So far, the system is working well. Maybe I can actually cross some projects off the list, rather than just continuing to add new ones!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ebook Ghost Writing for Dummies

I think I'll start collecting some of the finer "ghost writing" job postings I get via email. Take this one for example (original formatting retained for your enjoyment):
Need a recipe writer for a long term basis to ghost write small ebooks (of 30 recipes). The ebook should contain the following:
-A short introduction to the book (1 page)
-30 original recipes
 -A Creative and Descriptive Title
 Recipes need to be original as all the work will be checked for duplicate content.
My budget is $10 per ebook, but this can be ongoing work for the eligible applicant.

I am looking to get 1 ebook a week.

This bid is for the first 10 books, but looking for ongoing contractor.

Please send with coverletter samples of your original recipes, so I can check your skill level.

 **NO UPFRONT PAYMENT - you will be paid in installments, after each book is approved.
I'm really curious whether people actually snap up these offers. Amazing.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mechanical Swans Make Me Feel Stupid


I hate it when books make me feel stupid, and I just finished one that did just that.

It's called The Chemistry of Tears, by Peter Carey, and is a two-time Booker Prize winner. Perhaps that should have warned me off, but no.

It has wonderful promise, this story that weaves together two stories, or perhaps more than two. Contemporary horologist meets an insane genius inventor through the notebooks of his patron. Grief unites them from their varying points in time. Hints of God and atheism are sprinkled throughout. The book combines mechanics and mystery, and love and friendship between odd fellows.

Definitely lots of promise.

But I couldn't quite wrap my brain around it. I just don't think I'm smart enough.

Oh literary fiction. You are such a tool for humility.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

On Ships, and Whips, and Swinging Cats

The piece I wrote on being one of 238 writers who were simultaneously rejected via group email appeared in today's issue of the local newspaper:

Newburyport Daily News: Mass Rejection Via Email

DiDi, the best promotion person/assistant/BFF in history, submitted it while I wasn't paying attention. I doubt they'd run it in any other town, but in Newburyport you can't swing a dead cat around by the tail without hitting a writer, so the editors probably thought some of them would find it amusing.

(Now don't complain to me about the cat phrase. I didn't invent it. Rumor has it that it was originally used to refer to small ships, which were too narrow to effectively swing a "cat of nine tails" whip. This is a former shipping town, so it seemed to fit. On a related note, I'm surprised by how few dead cats there are here, given that it is a town in which cats roam so freely. But I digress.)

It's always fun to read your writing on something that you can pick up and hold, and that didn't come out of your own printer. And it seems to be picking up speed, this getting back into being published thing, after a few years hiatus.

Thank you DiDi. You rock.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Announcing: Marriage Revolution

I recently began a new blog, because let's face it, I really needed one more set of things to write about.

(Total BS. I can't seem to make time for my existing thought trails...)

It's called Marriage Revolution, and will be a platform for thinking about how to shift our cultural focus on what marriage -should- mean. Given all the debate about same sex marriage, and the abysmal failure of traditional marriage in our current culture, it seems the time is right to work toward a better solution.

Care to join me in creating a new vision?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Encouragement is a wonderful thing

NPR's All Things Considered program recently finished up another Three Minute Fiction contest. The story had to start with the line "She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door." Not the greatest opening line in the history of open lines. Also, it had to be under 600 words. Quite a challenge!

I didn't make it as winner or in the selected favorites, but got some great feedback from others who submitted pieces. I won't post the piece here because I'm planning to send it off to a few other contests. However, I will strut a strut or two and post a few of the encouraging comments I received from the contest's Facebook pages. Each quote is from a different commenter.

Here goes!
"I think the heart of this piece is the contrast between Abraham, who is willing to sacrifice his child according to God's demands, and Yaeda who ultimately puts her devotion to her child above that to her deity. I do find that compelling - what does it take to make a person lose faith in their god, to put a love for one's fellow humans above a love for god."
"What a gentle love song this story is. I am especially struck by what I see as a Mother imagining her own, darker apocalypse the post apocalyptic world she already inhabits. I feel great tenderness for her, and admiration for her acts of love both physical and spiritual. One doesn't need to be a religious person themselves to appreciate the acts of faith she performs and the great meaning in quite literally swabbing her daughter in holy words. Very very well done. Thank you."

"This is very well done. I don't usually like stuff where the voice of the narrator is so booming. To carry it off, the piece has to be perfect, and I think this one is nearly that. Everything she describes dwindles-- these sentences are a good example: "Emptying her first of energy, then of humor, then of color. No toddles left, no gurgling laughter, no shining eyes." Though now that I've quoted that one, I'm not sure I'm a fan of "no toddles"."

"Suzanne, I loved this story. I am not at all familiar with the Song of Solomon (I wouldn't have known that is what is was if others had not posted it) but that doesn't harm the story, in my opinion. It leaves me like the grandmother - not really knowing or understanding the import, but observing and understanding the excruciating decisions all the same.   Overall, it is a haunting tale - we take for granted things like paper, medicine, etc. The reminder that they are luxuries hits with impact."

"Well done, Suzanne. I am really in love with this piece. You write about an imperfect place. It makes sense that the imperfections should show so beautifully in the telling."

"Suzanne this is a powerful and beautifully written story. The juxtaposition of that particular book and that particular illness shouldn't have worked, but it did work because of your skillful writing and the passion that permeated every word. Thank you for sharing this story."

"Very strong sentiments, images . . . I want more."

"Really beautiful, haunting and moving."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Read all about it! My profile in Hollywood and Vine Magazine

Remember the post from a few weeks ago about a literary agency's mass rejection email? Turns out one of my fellow rejects works with the online and print magazine Hollywood & Vine, and decided that the publication should cover the story.

The latest issue does exactly that. Here's a link:

The story starts on page 8. It includes profiles of some of us. I'm number 10. My quote about rejection in the "Mantra" section is cut off, but I'm not complaining. I'll take every weird little publishing credit I can get.

Viva la 238!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Interesting things about apartment life

I've been living in an apartment for a year, after having owned my own home since 1986. Something that happened this morning made me think I should tabulate some of the things that make it an adventure.
Here goes. I'll add to the list over time.
  • Thin walls with back-to back-bathrooms equals periodic synchronized peeing.
  • Having skinny neighbors means there's always someone to climb through the small bathroom window if you lock yourself out.
  • Passionate mid-night arguments from across the hall remind me to be grateful that those days are finally over.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thing's I'm learning from car-free living

I thought it might be interesting to capture some experiences of life without a car. I'll add to the list as new things come up.
  • Time is relative. When making a round trip bike ride on the same route, one direction may take 5 minutes, while the other may take 15.
  • A terrier can smell the dog park from 1/2 a mile away.
  • I doubt I'll be buying mega-sized packages of toilet paper for a while.
  • Riding a bus is interesting.
  • The first few times you ride a bike after not riding for a long time, you don't know how to get started, you don't know how well the breaks work, and you're afraid of cars. Be prepared to look like a dork.
  • Walking in the rain is fun.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Day One

It is the first day of carlessness for some months to come.

I'm looking forward to it despite the skies being gray; imagining purposeful walks in the rain and sunlit bike rides. I wonder if I'd be panicing if it hadn't been by choice. Frightened of how to manage details like groceries and doctor's appointments.

But here, behind my laptop, starting the first day, I'm feeling nothing but anticipation of all the things to come. Money saved. Weight lost. Health improved. Creativity sparked. Life observed.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

One Step Closer to Fanhood

I went to a ball park the other day. In the eyes of the world it would have been a historic game, if it weren't for the rain.

The park was Fenway. The teams were the Red Sox and the Yankees. The game would have been their first match in Fenway's 100th year.

I've never been a sports fan, so this wouldn't normally mean much to me.

But here I am, living in Massachusetts where the Sox logo shows up on everything from license plates to hats, from jackets to coffee mugs. The Sox are not so much team as hope, dream, and inspiration.

For most of my life, the closest professional sports team to home was the Buffalo Bills. I saw the blue and red Buffalo logo there, but it wasn't the same. Part of it is that I wasn't paying attention. Part of it is that New Englanders are different from Western New Yorkers. And part of it is that I didn't have exposure to the family lure, lore, and connection to a team.

Now I do.

DiDi's family is a Red Sox family. Her dad -loved- the Sox. Watching games together was a sacred time and space. She grew up associating the sport and the team with her father, with sharing. DiDi's beloved Nana lived in Massachusettes, which increased the draw. Her whole family are Sox fans. Her daughter is a Sox fan. Her nephews are Sox fans. Her sisters are Sox fans.

DiDi's 50th birthday was this past week. Her nephew and his lovely wife decided to surprise DiDi by visiting from Florida, bringing tickets for the Yankees game with them.

A few days before their arrival, Fenway televised its 100th anniversary celebration. DiDi watched it, and I caught bits and pieces while trying to hide the fact that I was preparing for guests. It was touching, even though I have no connection to the park. It was moving to see elderly players mixing with current, listening to stories, seeing the fans packing the stadium and hearing their cheers. I tried to get it.

On the day of the game, it rained. And rained. And rained. Our Florida visitors tried to be cheerful. It would have been the first time they'd been to Fenway, a bucket list item.

Not to mention the cost.

We decided to head down and tour the park, regardless of what was going to happen with the game.

And that's when I started to get it.

The city was soaked, rain falling harder than ever. The game was called. People in red and blue were everywhere, cracking jokes, bitching, heading into nearby restaurants and the gift shop. Fans of all ages, shapes and sizes.

We went on the tour, and I watched DiDi and her family as they passed by Ted Williams' red seat, gazed out from the top of the Green Monster, and looked at 100 years of balls, bats, and uniforms. I listened as they replayed moments from famous games.

At the end of the tour, a young man took the guide's microphone and made an announcement. He'd planned to handle it another way, during the game. But his plans were also rained out. His girlfriend walked up in tears, Red Sox cap perched atop her cute little head, and accepted the ring he offered. The rest of us burst into applause and cheers.

There was an amazing unity among those of us on the tour. We didn't know eachother, but were somehow kin. I expected it to be kitchy, and maybe it was.

I still can't call myself a fan. I was not born and raised to follow sports. But after this weekend, I'm one step closer to getting it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Book I Need to Write

I've come to realize that the reason there are so many generational sagas on library book shelves is not so much that people want to read them, as that people need to write them.

Lynne Hinton's painful story, The Arms of God brought me to this realization.

The book unwinds the intermingled stories of several generations of mothers and daughters. It starts with the pain of a contemporary woman, eloquently conveying the lasting damage of early trauma. The tale then jumps back to the woman's grandmother, unfolding her life and that of her daughter.

Three generations of damaged women.

In some ways our lives start out as single strands. Simple, straightfoward. Uncomplicated. As life progresses new strands are woven in, until the end, at which point a complex tapestry has been woven from relationship and experience, love and loss, hate and healing.

In other ways our lives are never really that simple. At birth, and even before it, the threads from our mothers and grandmothers travel through to who we are, and to what we will be. Their pain shapes us. Their brokenness reflects through to us and we take on our own fractured variation.

So I think I understand why all these books exist.

They exist because we have to write them.

Mom, I need to hear your stories.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Infectious fascination

From: If You Want to Write

Tolstoy, one of the most interesting men who ever lived, explains that mystery of “interestingness” and how it passes from writer to reader. It is an infection. And it is immediate. The writer has a feeling and utters it from his true self. The reader reads it and is immediately infected. He has exactly the same feeling. This is the whole secret of enchantment, fascination.

--Brenda Euland

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mass Rejection Email Fail (Oh you literary agents: such kidders.)

Writers are like salesmen. Actually, writers are salesmen, though not by choice. We have to churn out words and ideas and stories and then pitch them repeatedly until (hopefully) finding someone who will love and cherish the work down the aisle toward publication.

For my latest picture book I've sent out 43 queries and submissions to agents and publishers so far. With more to come.

For the previous picture book, I sent out 50.

For the first picture book, 21.

I'm getting better at it. Faster.

Being in sales means being told NO repeatedly. It's just a reality of the job.

Imagine yourself as a toddler all over again, reaching for the TV remote, or trying to climb up to the high shelf where the cookies are stored, or coveting the stuffed rabbit in the arms of your friend.

No Suzanne.

No. No no no.

All the while your two-year-old emotions shriek "But I WANT it!"

That's a bit what it's like, though I try to tell myself that my work is actually good, and that my desire to be published is more than mere Id-speak.

Rejections tend to come in three forms.

1) The generic form letter. (Thanks but no thanks.)

2) The personalized form letter. (It didn't totally suck, but still.)

3) The encouraging letter. (I liked the poignancy of the even pages but the lack of vampires in the odd ones makes it not quite publishable.)

I've mostly received the first type, which, (she proclaims adamantly) is not unusual. I've gotten a few of the 2nd and 3rd types, and they get me excited enough to post FB statuses which will probably embarrass me later.

But this week a weird thing happened.

First, a type 1 rejection email arrived in my inbox from a well respected literary agency. It was quickly followed by an automated RECALL message. Shortly after that, a third note appeared, this one reading (in all caps) "Please disregard the previous message."

Being a two year old, I started to get worked up! Maybe this was it! They'd accidentally sent me a rejection note, and then realized it was an accident! My big break had come! Maybe!

But just as the sweet taste of success was forming in my imagination, the cookie crumbled. The ugly reality set in.

I saw it in the To: field. Email addresses.

Lots of them. 238 to be exact.

We were mass rejected.

The awesome fail of it all elicited a deluge of email responses from rejectees, ranging from "Please stop hitting reply all!" to "I didn't even write to them! or did I?" to "Thank you for sharing my personal email address with so many people. As an attorney, I'm sure this issue can be resolved."

Out of this so far has come two Facebook pages, a variety of blog posts, and at least one e-zine article. Given the creativity of the group, it produced poems, banners like the one at the top of this post, and catch phrases.

It also created a strange band of brethren.

We are the 238. The many. The proud. The rejected.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Redressing a Dystopian Omission

I've been thinking about the popularity of post-apocolyptic tales, and it occurred to me that something significant is missing. It's also missing from historical fiction.

What is this missing link, you ask?

Toilet paper.

Or rather, it's historic equivalent.

Despite the irrefutable necessity of the stuff, you never hear about it. In the past and presumably in a Walmart-free, post-zombie future, we won't be able to run out and buy a 24-roll pack to stash in the linen closet.

In days gone by, the Old Farmer's Almanac and Sears Roebuck catalogs performed valuable service in the privy. In a TP-free future, would we first raid our shelves of pulp fiction, then how-to books, and eventually great works of literature?

(I fear that Bibles will once again become an extravagance only the rich can afford, filled as they are with page after page of soft onion skin.)

But let's face it. How far could the almanac and the catalog actually go? And who got to use it? Was it first come, first served? Was it reserved for the man of the family? For tender little ones? There had to be additional supplies once the last sheets were torn out, or for the low man on the totem pole who didn't get to use the paper.

In the US, corncobs were supposed to be the primary potty material. But where were the cobs stored? How were they collected? If you weren't a farmer, could you buy a bag at the general store?

No matter what was used, gathering the necessary supplies and putting them in the privy and near the chamber pots had to be a regular chore. But you never hear about it. None of the Little House books talk about it. The Hunger Games never mentions it.

If and when I write a story set in the dystopian future I'm going to address this. Someday, somewhere, some character is going to be in charge of stocking the outhouse.

Meanwhile, I'm going to lock a few of my Bibles in a safe deposit box.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Newburyport Literary Festival is Coming!

That's right! The Newburyport Literary Festival is coming!

Can you tell I'm excited?

April marks my one year anniversary as a Newburyportian, and what better way to celebrate.

Last year's event was wonderful, and this year looks to be equally fabulous.

Given that I've been pitching two picture books, am finishing up a third, and am also working on a reluctant reader for boys, I'm particularly looking forward to the eight children's authors who will be presenting. The list even includes Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney!

Can't ask for better input than that!

Stay tuned for more details as the schedule gets fleshed out.

The Newburyport Literary Festival is coming!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Today... finished up long letters to several friends. Wrote a blog post. Researched 5 publishers. Took the dog to the doggie park for off leash adventure, urination, and romance. Called about volunteering at the church's soup kitchen. Ate cake. Read part of a mysterious book. Prayed for the mourning hearts of several mothers. Picked up additional zinc in an attempt to fight off a lurking virus. Slept in. Wondered how the heating bill could be so high when the temperature has been so warm. Answered "Why Newburyport" to another old friend. Hoped to be published. Worried about not getting enough done. Read some of my beautiful daughter's beautiful writing. Wondered when I'll see my son. Lived.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Notes from a Typical Sunday

DiDi says she wants to see more randomness from me.

In writing that is.

She gets to see the many faces of Suzanne in and out of days, and I guess she thinks it would play well in type. Me, I'm not so sure, but I hear and obey. She is, after all, the finest, funniest, and bestest assistant I've ever had.

So let's see. Here are some random events from today:
  • I got a lot of pleasure from looking at the brown eggs we purchased at a local farm market the other day. I'd heard the color of the yolks should be more orange than supermarket versions, but I'm not sure I could see a difference.
  • The priest of the Episcopal church I've been attending thanked me for adopting a plaster Mary statue last week.
  • I ate a teaspoon of local honey, hoping to stave off the allergies that have been plaguing me for month. Let's see if this little trick works!
  • I am playing with different voices for my latest picture book... thinking of going sort of irreverent, wacky, and magical. Wonder if that's an achievable mix?
  • I've been pondering and researching whether there is a point in Christian history that we began being temples of the Holy Spirit.
  • I invited my college age son to PLEASE come visit me.
  • I talked DiDi into picking up the football pizza special at my place of employ, because I don't want to see it on a day I'm not working.
  • I spent an hour with two Jehovah's Witnesses, learning about the distinctives of their faith.
  • I baked cinammon rolls which I wish were like my Mom used to make. But aren't.
  • I kicked an empty Bisquick Light box around the apartment with Charlie the Wonder dog, who thinks cardboard boxes are the best toys ever.
  • I forgot to remind DiDi to take her pills on time, but DID remember to bring her some ice for her poor, swollen cheek.
  • I half listened to a football game on the telly, given that I'm a New Englander now, and it looks as if "we" are going to the Super Bowl.
  • I started running a much overdue backup of my laptop.
  • I began a load of laundry, which reminds me, I'd better go put it in the dryer...
After that I think it's time to have a glass of old vine Zinfandel (read "boxed red wine") and do some competitive research (read "look at picture books").

I hope your day was equally varied, interesting, and just a tad bit crazy.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Charlie the Wonder Dog?

This is Charlie.

This is Charlie being cute. And naughty.

This is Charlie in an action shot.

Here's the point.

The other day we took Charles to an off-leash doggie park for "socialization" (i.e. the opportunity to romance dogs of all shapes, sizes, breeds, and genders, and the chance to practice not peeing on human beings.)

He was all dressed up in his little navy blue fleece jacket, which I'd culled from the lost and found at work. Some poor toddler apparently left without it 6 months ago. It's embroidered with Vail on the left breast, which hints at Charlie being a wealthy outdoor adventurer.

Not that he needs the extra swagger.

Everyone loves Charlie. He's adorable. He can jump vertically. He runs like a maniac. He's sweet and cute and a bit crazed, and generally irresistible. We are used to hearing people get all bubbly about him.

But on this trip, one of his enthusiasts said something interesting. She said that Charlie ought to be the hero of his own children's book.


I should really finish up my reluctant reader before beginning this one.

Shouldn't I?