E-spiration, Part 2.

In addition to the writing, planning, and dreaming that goes into this project, I’m really enjoying the level of engagement I’m seeing in my child. She truly gets joy from every part of this process. Over spring break she discovered an awesome website that lets you design houses (all on her own–how do they do these things? They learn to navigate and seek out their interests right under your nose…and the next thing you know, your 11-year-old is a mini-architect. Amazing.) Anyway, she stumbled onto a site called homestyler.com, and then proceeded to devote hours to imagining what the house of our next protagonist looks like.

Already underway, book two is set on Oahu, and our main character, Mai, and her family have moved from Tokyo to share a home with Mai’s aunt, uncle, and cousin. So with the help of homestyler.com, Holly now has a visual rendering of the walkway leading up to the little yellow house that we’ve written about, complete with bedrooms for each character, shared living spaces, and a lanai that’s decked out with furniture and landscaping. I love that she knows what it takes to inspire her own creativity, and while I’ll admit that I’ve never needed (or at least never had) an architectural layout of my characters’ homes, I kind of love it. To be perfectly honest, I’m hoping that her organization, visual inspiration, and preparation, rub off on me a little as a writer because I tend to just dive in. My whole story universe generally lives inside my head (and on my old-school cut-and-paste inspiration boards, as mentioned in a previous post), so to have all of these colorful, dynamic, well thought out pieces of the puzzle is pretty cool for me.

And on another note, report cards came out the Friday before spring break, and guess what Holly’s note from the teacher said? “I’ve really noticed huge improvements in her writing skills this trimester.” (**insert big Mommy Smiley Faces here**) That was certainly not my sole intent when we started this journey, but it’s absolutely a welcome side effect of our collaboration!

Spring Break.

We’re currently enjoying a rainy spring break in the Pacific Northwest. This afternoon we’re taking three pre-teen girls to see “Home” at the movies, but for now, I’m enjoying a little pre-lunch quiet time in our writing room next to the garden. I’ve got a query to re-work, editing to do, and my own story with which to get reacquainted (because, well, it’s been a while). With a cup of coffee, a space heater, Pandora, and my dog to keep my company, I just might get inspired to do some work. I probably should be working on my lesson plan for next week so that I’m prepared for my principal to observe me teaching, or maybe pecking away at the cumbersome online process that is the formal year-end teacher evaluation for our state, but…it’s spring break, so that’s all gonna have to wait.

It’s time to write. Happy Tuesday–I hope inspiration finds YOU!

Right foot, left foot, right foot…keep moving.

As I wade through a sea of dirty floors, bills to be paid, dinner dishes, and a week of long days between now and Spring Break, it’s so easy to lose the plot with writing. After all, inspiration (and energy) sometimes vanish when high schoolers bury me under their personal dramas and intense home situations all day long, my baby cries to me at night because she hates math and is “too hungry to pay attention” by the time lunch rolls around at 1:15, and the cat needs to go to the vet again because he has tumors that require more steroid shots. Sometimes life just gets in the way. And it’s precisely at these moments that writing should be an escape and not a chore, but somehow when I’m mentally and physically depleted, it’s easier (and more fun) to let someone else’s words entertain me. And so I read.

I’ve been a little obsessed lately with the books that amused me in my youth. Remember that feeling of coming home from school with no responsibilities or big decisions to make? That freedom of having no homework to do, when your most pressing concern was how many grilled cheese sandwiches to make before disappearing into your room with a book? I loved the creepy and well-written soft-horror of Lois Duncan, and am currently reading Killing Mr. Griffin simply because it called out to me from my bookshelf at school. And I won’t lie: I’ve considered revisiting Sweet Valley High just for fun, and I even googled a series I remember loving called Sweet Dreams–it was a collection of standalone romances with torrid titles like P.S. I Love You, Summer Breezes, and Programmed for Love. (I think it was the different characters and places in each of these books that made me love a good series with standalone titles, which is part of what I’m loving so much as Holly and I work on our books together.) Sadly, my copies of these favorites were all lost in the Great Waterbed Tragedy of 1989, but I’m sure I could replace that waterlogged, pulpy mess of teenage drama and romance if I really wanted to. I mean, with just a few strategic bids and some last-minute maneuvers, I clobbered my eBay opponent in a war to win the entire catalogue of Babysitters Club novels last spring. And after parting with $75 (and a little of my dignity as one of my TA’s watched in puzzlement as I whooped with joy over winning a box of thirty-year-old girls’ books) I became the proud owner of a classic series. Er, I mean Holly became the proud owner of all of the Babysitters Club books. (Duh. Of course they were for her–I mean, obviously!)

But honestly, I have no shame about what I read. Good books don’t have to be secret guilty pleasures like the embarrassing music you hide on your iPod (hello, entire Aha and Debbie Gibson catalogues–I’m talking about you!) So now, with pride, I’m going to go polish off Killing Mr. Griffin on this rainy Saturday afternoon. And then we’ll write.

When Spring Comes Early…

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THIS. WEATHER. Who says global warming isn’t real? Our friendly after-school janitor debated this with me the other day (as here in the Pacific Northwest we haven’t seen a lick of the white stuff fall from the sky since November. NOVEMBER!)  He falls heavily on the side of “shifting weather patterns” as opposed to “global warming.” I–on the other hand–think that the world has to be tilting perilously on its axis or something in order for us to get a string of sixty degree, sunny days in February. But why quibble? All I know for sure is that, meteorologically speaking, things just ain’t right. A friend in D.C. says her son’s school district has added minutes on to every school day into the month of April to make up for all of their snow days, and my daughter is busting out her gladiator sandals before Valentine’s Day and referring to March 5th as “another hot, sunny day, right Mom?” So things are definitely topsy-turvy up in this joint.

Anyhow, with a sky the color of a Mexican Jay’s feathers, and trees already covered in puffs of pink cotton candy cherry blossoms, I know it’s time to break out my camera and hit the open road. Of course my favorite subject is also my writing partner, and I feel like I can say this without sounding like a braggadocio mom: girlfriend knows her way around a pose. I think it might be genetic. I started modeling at twelve, and while I generally prefer being on the other side of the camera now, I do love to watch my baby girl angling and configuring herself into just the right position to catch the light and convey a mood. Not that I’m desperate for her to follow in my footsteps (believe me–I’d rather she do a sport! Take AP classes instead of leaving school midday for fashion shows! Go to college while the ink is still wet on her high school diploma!), but it does make a mother proud. It does. I can’t even lie.