Monday, August 31, 2009


So I didn't go to the garden today because of the squash attack. Unlike my friend Mel, I'm passive-aggressive when it comes to veggie attacks. I did venture out onto the deck to see if it was holding up under the heatwave California is experiencing. It was doing fine. Even the cat didn't look wilted.

Now, as to the cat . . . she's the last. I swear. However, I've swore that before and that didn't work because I have this soft place for those felines--less these days.

Here's what I mean. People seem to think that cats, if dumped in the mountains, are survival experts. That may be true, but the cost of their survival is huge. Domestic cats prey on birds and small mammals and even the fragile frog population. The number of critters an average domestic cat can bring down is amazing. Take a look at this article. It will make you think that bringing those furry lovelies indoors is a good idea.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


In spite of the heat I've returned to the outdoors to find things to share on my blog. Of course, with the heat come the vegetables from the garden. As you can see our harvest this year is pretty BIG!

Here's the first picking this morning.

Then my second venture into the garden and . . .

Okay, now I'm a little worried when I go back late in the afternoon, and I have every right to be.

None of these squash are the same ones. Oh dear. All I can do is write, and what could be more fitting than an . . .

Ode to Squash

Just as Alice Waters would say,
If she were with me today,
There should be a "Song of Squash,"
A song that sings of bountiful vines .
A song that sings of fruit green and white
That explode with flavor at each bite.
A song that calls neighbors near, to say
Please come and take a squash away.

Care to write a better ode? Please! There's a prize. Can you guess what it might be?

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Five young adult authors had some fun at Corte Madera Book Passage Monday night. Cheryl Herbsman, Malinda Lo, Sarah Quigley, Jon Yang and I presented our books and talked about our journeys to publication to wonderful audience.

We even had a surprise guest, former Senator George McGovern stopped in.

Thanks, Lissa for a great evening at your wonderful bookstore.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I'm a little late in my post because I was . . . outdoors all day today! But I return with some fun or clumsy or whatever pics of the day.

This is the lower trail where I hike sometimes. And today it's with my good friend who listens to all of my stories, the ones I'm thinking of writing and the ones I may never write, but need to share. Not many friends will put up with all of this, but she does.

The kids and I used to pick the wild blackberries along this creek then make jam. Now it's a little more complicated. The kids are busy and I'm busy too. The berries are the only constant. They set on whether or not people find the time to enjoy their gift.

Monday, August 24, 2009


A few years ago I stood looking at the ruins on our lower property. The land had been left to grow into a wild tumble of weeds that partially covered an old foundation, the only remains of a house that had burned years before.

Every year I told myself, "You have to do something with that mess." And every year passed while I cared for family and went to work and did everything except tackle the weed-choked land.

You can probably see from this old photo why I didn't plunge in. This was not a small project, and what you're seeing is only one corner, the corner where I finally put my small pond.

So take a trip back to that same corner a few years later. It's much nicer now.

After my trip down to the pond this morning I thought, "Poetry! Why not?" So here's my water lily inspired poem for Monday. Want to try your hand at a bit of poetry to start your writer, reader week?

Open faced and sun-kissed
Buoyed by water's hand
Quiet beauty waits.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Returning outdoors more often has started generating new ideas for writing. I don't know, but if you're a writer do you often find that changing where you write helps to either get you going on a story or shows you where a story might be better?

This morning going into the garden I thought about a whole series of short pieces that I'd love to put together into a collage of Garden Stories. Sort of a picture book for big kids who love gardens and think of them as metaphors for life.

So if you can forgive the rather shaky camera work again, here's a venture into my garden and some of the writing that came while I visited.

I can pick beans for an hour, know I've found all of them, and then circle the bush one more time and find a cluster of those stealthy green pods tucked behind leave. I know they didn't grow while I walked down the row. I just hadn't seen them the first time. It occurs to me that picking beans is a lot like solving problems. You have to look for solutions from a different angle. Sometimes the answers are there all the time. You simply haven't seen them yet.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


This is so not writerly or artsy or even bloggy, but . . . I'm admitting who I am here . . . a bad photographer who claims to be a writer.

I know that once I start posting these clips people are going to realize I'm really not a writer at all. I'm a fake writer. I'm one of those people who tells everyone I write, but I really don't. Those words appear on the paper or the computer screen after I go to bed. Elves. Yes. Definitely elves are at work.

Anyway, I've been outside and that's really where I belong, so this post and the others I'm thinking about putting up here, are my learning-curve-getting-used-to-my-Mac posts. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Going Green

If you're a returning visitor you'll notice my new look. I'm still working on my "outside blogging" and while I'm putting all of that in order I've decided to "go green." Think grass and trees and all those things that grow up from the ground in that amazing reach for the sun.

Do you like it, my green look? I'm still in the experimental stage, so comments are appreciated.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Working Working Working

The title sums it up. I'm working.

Here's what I'm doing: harvesting one hundred-pound squash and carrying them up a hill in a wheelbarrow. You think I'm kidding. Not!

I'm writing my great American blockbuster novel. This time I am kidding.

I'm querying agents--well, I've queried one, but she did ask for a full. That's good, right?

I'm looking at other options for ways to spend my life. I'm always doing that.

I'm trying to think of something really pithy to say next week at Book Passage when I'm suppose to talk about my writing journey and sign books.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Peripatetic Novel

First I get this Tweet from author, Nan Marino that takes me on a tour of Massapequa, NY. I've never been to Massapequa. I can barely say it and spelling it is out of the question. I had to copy and paste the name here.

Well, this Tweet shows Nan's book, Neil Armstrong is my Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGlinty Told Me, out and about the streets of Mas-a-p . . . that place.

But how can that be? I just spotted that same book in my garden and at my house and I have proof. Something's fishy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


You got it! The last "mystery" photo (see the previous post) was Sherman Alexie. He gave a heart-wrenching, yet humorous keynote at the conference. What a deep well the Res kid developed. There will be many more stories to reveal Sherman Alexie's talent and give a voice to many who still have none.

Ready for another famous image? This is the last. Give it your best shot.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nobody Got the Answer

The picture in the post below is Ed Masessa. He's the Senior Manager of Product Development at Scholastic Book Fairs and the author of successful children's books.

Want to try another one?

Here's someone everyone will recognize.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Best Part of SCBWI09

Meeting writers and reviewers I'd only connected with online was the absolute best.

In the picture is Malindo Lo and J.E. MacLeod. We'd just had a fab dinner and were enjoying some conversation time.

Here was part of the evening line up. J.E. MacLeod, Waiting to Score; Cindy Pon, Silver Phoenix; Cheryl Herbsman, Breathing; L.K. Madigan, Flash Burnout; Cynthea Liu, Paris Pan Takes the Dare; Malinda Lo, Ash.

All great people and all with super books to offer young readers. How much better can it get?

Well, there's more and it does get better, but I have to organize my head or my heart before I put it all down. Maybe my closet should come into this organizing bit.

Also no one's identified that guy in the previous post. He's super famous you guys, isn't he?

Who Is This?

I stayed through Monday at the SCBWI09 conference and stood in line at the autograph party for the luminaries to sign my books.

Here's a little SCBWI Who's Who Quiz.

Can you name this man?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SCBWI '09 Rocks

I started each morning looking out at this. Not bad, right? The new millennium fountain put me in the mood for the California room and the speakers that were non-stop funny, inspirational, and informative.

Lin Oliver set the tone each morning just as she always does with her natural comedic talent and welcoming warmth.

Here she holds forth on some of the best jokes. The theme for jokes was the economic hard times and how they might affect children's stories.

" Geppetto uses Pinocchio for fire wood."
"Snow White lays off three of the seven dwarves."

You get the idea. More pics and comments later. Gotta unpack.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Not-so-Hot August Nights in LA

It's not hot down here in the south land. I can't even say "balmy" applies. I may have to fly north to get warm. My goodness.

However, the SCBWI conference has been warm and welcoming and totally fabulous. As the week goes on I'll be posting what I can about this event.

On the social side it's been great. Tonight I was lucky enough to share dinner with J.E. MacLeod, Cindy Pon, Kathleen Duey, Kami Garci, Malindo Lo and Holly Black. Between Holly and Michelle Zinc I may be converted to reading more fantasy. They are very convincing.

Now it's definitely time for bed. One more day of non-stop learning and sharing; then it's bye to L.A. and I'm back to the bay area.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Answer

Okay. Everybody has given up.

Remember the idiom, "Everything from top to bottom?" Well, the shop keeper who wrote "The Vertical Bridal Shop" translated that idiom more or less literally.

Now, that was easy, right?

I didn't get it at all until I asked the right person.

Want more? Probably not. I'll be back from SCBWI Tuesday, and return to my usual writing chatter, but love to play with how language and culture interact . . . just a bit.

Right now I'm getting ready to turn in from great day at SCBWI in L.A. Lots to work on when I get home and lots to share.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Figure This One Out

Unfortunately, this time I didn't have my camera on my hip, but I did write down what the sign said. Let me set the scene. I was in front of a very nice store that sold western-style bridal gowns and other items for a wedding, including favors and flowers.

This was the sign over the door to the shop.


I asked everyone who spoke English to tell me what they thought it meant. I had several very "clever" answers, none of which were right. It wasn't until I came home and talked to some Chinese-American students that I "got" it.

Do you "get" it?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Some I Get

Yep! This one made sense.

My plan was to escape the park guy, and I would have pell-melled past this sign, but instead I skidded to a stop.  

"Holy cow," I said loudly (because nobody around me knew what I was saying, and since I was one of those crazed American tourists they paid me no attention anyway) "I'm reading Chinese and getting it!" I whipped out my camera and wammo! Moment captured. 

No translations needed here, right?

Monday, August 3, 2009

More about Translation Treachery

So after evading the "tilket" and "rarers" conundrum, I made my way to a park. Surely, I reasoned, I'd have no problems there.

I'd crossed the grass and was sitting comfortably under the shade of a tree when a guard (unarmed, but uniformed and cross-armed) came up and pointed to this inscribed rock. 

He barked a few words that sounded like, "Hey, dummy whatcha think you're doin'?" That was the tone anyway and now he was jabbing his finger at the words on the rock. Well, I couldn't understand the Chinese characters and I couldn't understand the English ones either. So I shrugged, got up and left. 

What's your translation?

Saturday, August 1, 2009


One thing I love doing is going to different parts of this planet. A few years ago I went to China for the first time. I'd lived in Hong Kong when I was younger, and often looked longingly toward China as I hydrofoiled my way to Macao.  

When I found out the great dam project was about to close down the Emerald Gorge on the Yangtze, I made up my mind that it was time to make that trip.

And what a trip it was! More exciting and interesting than I'd imagined. 

As I made my way from Beijing to Wuhan and then onto the boat that would take me up the river, I kept running into the most puzzling signs written in English--well, almost. I'm used to dealing with non-native speakers of English, so I accepted the challenge of trying to figure out exactly what these signs meant. 

What really worried me was, what if I got those message wrong? What if I did something I wasn't supposed to do or didn't have what they expected me to have? Call me paranoid, but armed guards make me nervous. 

So here's one sign that I'm still thinking about. I figured out the "showu" and the "tilket," but what in heaven's name is a "rarer?"

While you're working on it, think about a steely-eyed soldier standing at the entrance who is watching you. You're fumbling with your "tilket" and praying there's a "rarer" attached.