Thursday, February 27, 2014

Weekly Reading

**A is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet, Stephen T. Johnson
My favorite book of the week. The abstract art this man created for this book is impressive...I mean, I know nothing about abstract art but going to all work just blew me away. Weird of me to say, I know. Because not only is he an accomplished artist, but his word choice and humor throughout the book were surprising and captivating. I just loved this fresh take on an alphabet book and my 4 yo likes to search for the hidden objects. We see something new every time we read it.

The Dead Roam the Earth: True Stories of the Paranormal from around the World, Alasdair Wickham (NOT A CHILDREN'S BOOK)
Okay, I know. Here's the thing: I get story ideas from books like these, but I have to admit that I skipped large sections, mostly involving Mick Jagger and a giant pig demon. Ew. Not together, but they were still both "ew." Still, there were delightfully entertaining ghost stories that were lots of fun. Read with caution. And not at night.

Quiet Bunny, Lisa McCue
A long way from pig demons, I'll tell you that.

The Mole Sisters and the Busy Bees, Roslyn Schwartz
What I love best about the mole sisters are the colored pencil illustrations. Simply beautiful.

**Birthday Monsters!, Sandra Boynton
How can you not love Sandra Boynton? My four year old likes to "read" it back to me. Whoever's reading it, we always have a good time with Boynton. How can you not be impressed by someone who went from greeting cards (of which I was a huge fan) to bestselling board books?

First Graders from Mars. Episode 4, Shana Corey, Mark Teague
The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin, Margaret Wise Brown, Richard Egielski

**Highly Recommended

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Writing--The Balance

As I've worked writing back into my life after babies and illness and all the rest I've learned this one important thing: for me, it's about the balance.

Two things.

One. I can't go without writing for very long or I go crazy. It must be part of my day, nearly every day, and that's just all there is to it. Without that creative outlet I become fairly useless in every other facet of my life, or I at least feel that way: lackluster, bored, lifeless. Why am I here? Why is anyone here? I can't even eat potato chips. What's the point?

Two. I can't write all day every day without going crazy either. If it takes over more than several hours I get flighty, antisocial, and even somewhat paranoid. Too much imagination is not always comfortable. Also, the children get dirty, hungry, and finally start to get in the way of my computer screen.

Six Things

So these are my priorities (in alphabetical order) as of the first of this year and it is working very well for me. Family, Friends, God, Health, Housework, Writing. I think six things is a lot, but this is what my priorities really are. I couldn't lose any of them.

Family. I'm not sure this needs any explanation. I try to be there when my kids need me. They plop on my bed when I'm about to go so sleep and chat with me. I love that. I take them to karate (and whip out my laptop while they learn to kick things). I try to play with the little one for some time every day. I get out bikes, kiss crusty faces, and pick them up whenever they call. I am not a perfect parent but I try to let my kids know I love them no matter what. My husband is an amazing spouse and we cultivate a great relationship.

Friends. I love my friends and would be lost without them. They are much like family to me.

God. Like anything would happen in my life without God. He's given me everything, I can certainly do what he tells me now. For me that's mainly church, serving others, scripture study, and prayer. I don't let it slide.

Health. I have to pay attention to this every day. My diet is difficult and I cook nearly every pure thing I eat with my very own hands. I exercise, too. But not too much. And I look after everyone else's health in our food challenged family. It was overwhelming at first. Now, it's just life.

Housework. I know, I know. It isn't very writerly to worry about the housework. All great writers say they have given up cleaning their houses to make the time for writing. Well, I've been to some of their houses and they are lying. At least some of them are. I can't write in a messy house, mainly because if my house is messy, I can't immediately direct someone to what their asking for and get back to my writing in a timely fashion. It nags at me until I'm done. Ten minutes of laundry is going to become two hours of back breaking work before long. So I baby the OCD tendencies consistently and then get on with my life.

Writing. I write a couple of hours every day. I wish it were more, and when the little one goes to school, I am planning to bump it up. But for my balance right now, this is where it's comfortable even though it's not my ideal plan. Of course I place all my "story" time in this category, too. I can't watch a TV show, see a movie, or read a book without analyzing character, plot, and what made the story worked. Is that justifying entertainment? Sure. But I want to learn to be entertaining, so it works for me.

And that's it. If I'm not doing one of these things then I question its value and I usually don't do it often or get rid of it entirely. Sometimes surprising things end up not actually being as family oriented as I thought they were and I back away from them. PTA volunteering for example, my kids could care less if I did that so it's something of a time waster for me. Teaching a writing class for kids, who could resist that? So I juggle and learn and find what works for me.

If you want to truly write, there isn't much that can stop you. Sure, there is a thing or two that might, I don't deny it; I've experienced that actually. But if you continue on with the dream, you just might work your way around those rare obstacles. Then figure out your own balance and what you really want. No one can do it but you. And really, very little can stop you but you.

Monthly Reading

Sorry, it's been a while. Here's what I've been up to.

The Corner of Bitter and Sweet*, Robin Palmer
Yes, I was looking for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, but saw this and thoroughly enjoyed it. A quick YA read about the life of the daughter of an aging alcoholic TV star with captivating quirky voice and heart. Not the deepest book you can read about difficult issues, but hopeful, enjoyable, yet still somewhat real.

Uncle Andy's Cats***, James Warhola
A cute story shelved in children's fiction about Andy Warhol's herd of cats.

Divergent*, Veronica Roth
A dystopian about daring, selflessness, and real courage. I think it lives up to the hype and am looking forward to the movie.

The Mischievians**, William Joyce
A catalog of the creatures who unroll your toilet paper roll, steal your socks, and (yes) dangle your boogers from your nose for others to gawk at. My kids loved this. We took it a few pages at a time. And of course Joyce's art work is stunning.

The Leaf Men***, William Joyce

Not a Box***, Antoinette Portis
What I love about this little picture book is the pictures! Very cute.

National Geographic: Kids' Myths Busted***, Emily Krieger
A very fun kids myth buster book. They assert that alligators don't live in the sewer system of New York City, but then they tell you what does.

There were lots of other picture books, but these are the standouts. And more than anything what I've read is my own writing over, and over, and over. Someday, I'm hoping I can give it a * and send it out into the publishing world. And by someday, I'm hoping this year.

* Highly recommended
** Highly recommended by my kids
*** Highly recommended by me AND my kids ;)