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Aug. 23rd, 2011

Pearl - When a Snickers Bar is More than Just Deliciousness

I'm not sure how it's possible, but I am exhausted and totally reinvigorated at the same time.  The fact that I stayed up until the wee hours last night reading Jo Knowles' brilliant new book Pearl has everything to do with my current state.  For weeks now, the book has been sitting on my bedside table, patiently waiting while I finished others I'd already begun.  I wanted to give Pearl my undivided attention, and I am so glad that I did.  

There is so much to love (and admire) in this book.  Rich characters.  Complicated relationships.  Raw emotions.  Given where I am with my own manuscript,  I was particularly struck by Jo's beautifully spare writing.  There are no extra words cluttering her prose and distracting the reader from the heart of the story. You can feel the intention behind every word. She has the same gift when it comes to character building.  (Yes, this is where the candy comes in!)

Just listen:

  "The coffee sputters into the pot slowly, then begins to drip.  I watch it while the hole in my chest aches to the drips.  The two Snickers sit on the table like happy friends.  Everything around me is in twos...There's no room for three here.  
   "As soon as the coffee's done, I pour myself a mug, grab the Snickers, and head out for the front porch.  I sit on the steps and dunk the first bar into the coffee until the chocolate is drippy, then lick the melted coating off it."

Bean could just as easily have grabbed a Pop Tart or a bowl of cereal -- both reasonable, believable choices for a teenage girl.  Jo, however, never once foregoes an opportunity to draw us deeper into her characters.  Not a moment nor action is wasted.  This totally unique breakfast choice -- the ritual of eating melted bite, by melted bite --  it all so unmistakably Bean. It's all so unmistakably Jo.

So, I think I'll go make myself a cup of coffee (sadly we are Snickers free!) and take another look at my WIP with fresh, inspired eyes.

Jun. 9th, 2011

The Awkward and Uncomfortable

 I am the queen of embarrassing moments.  Don't believe me?  Try this one on for size:

Back in the day, I used to be a Press Secretary for a United States Senator.  In the middle of a press conference (yes...reporters...cameras..the works!), my boss stood at the podium and asked me for a pen to jot down a note.  Ever the eager assistant, I reached in my bag and in full view of the everyone in the room handed the man....a tampon...to write with.

I've also eaten more than my share of shoe: 

A woman stands alone in a tiny, old elevator.  Just as the doors are about to close, an arm shoots in the sliver of an opening.  It strains against the metal doors.

Woman: Careful, that's a good way to loose an arm!

The  man wins the struggle with the door and enters the elevator.  People, HE ONLY HAS ONE ARM.

There are days when I can't remember my own zip code, but my very own top ten list of embarrassing moments always remains horrifyingly clear.  There was no avoiding the flood of memories last night as I worked on my WIP and realized my poor eleven-year-old protagonist is cursed with the same knack for diving head first into the awkward and uncomfortable.  Poor kid.  

Anybody out there have an embarrassing story to share?  Better yet, how about an embarrassing moment from when you were little?

Oliver and I could use a little company!!

Jun. 4th, 2011

Lazy Lego Mornings

 No carpools to drive.  No lunches to be packed.  I love lazy weekend mornings.  

Here's what's happening at my house:


What's happening at yours?

Jun. 2nd, 2011

Thankful Thursday

 First meningitis.  Then a tornado.  Man, if bad things come in threes the Flynn family is in trouble!  Given what's been going on around here lately, I can't imagine a better reason to declare today "Thankful Thursday."  

I am so grateful to all of my family and friends who have reached out to help while I baby step my way towards recovery. I am thankful to the little angel (I know her name is Molly!) who watched over me in the hospital, making sure I made it home again safe and sound. I am thankful for the joy of writing and for the escape of imagination. And in a crazy twist of fate, I am thankful to the meningitis for giving me the wake-up call that I needed to remind the people I care about how important they are to me, especially the ones who I've foolishly lost touch with. There are just too many things to list them all.

Crazy as life may seem -- as scary as the world can be -- there is so much to be grateful for! What's on your list?

May. 31st, 2011

Feeling Like Dumb Dummy

OK, so I haven't been feeling so hot and am under doctor's orders to stay in bed. Grrrrr.... Of course, I don't have the energy to do much else, but there's something about being told you have to stay in bed that makes chores like vacuuming and doing laundry suddenly seem like fun. So I decided to take this opportunity to work on my novel and to get a grip on this whole social media thingamajiggy that's had my mind in knots since a workshop I took at the NESCBWI conference. Good plan, right?

Well, I thought so until I snuggled up with my War & Peace sized copy of Social Networking for Dummies. Granted, I am not a tech-savvy person, but I'm not totally hopeless (I hope!). I did set up a blog, right? I even Tweet on occasion! But trying to link everything together and get the biggest bang for my social networking buck remains a mystery. I figured with "For Dummies" in the title, this book would be the answer. As it turns out, I need the "Dumber than Dummies" version, and, wow, that's one heck of a slice of humble pie to choke down!

So congrats to all of you who've tackled this online beast and lived to tell the tale on Twitter, Facebook, Live Journal, Wordpress, You Tube....I lay here in awe of your skills, Smarties! You're an inspiration!

May. 24th, 2011

My Very Own Rock Star!

I have my very own rock star. Yup -- It's true! You won't find his face on a magazine in line at the supermarket. You won't hear about his celebrity antics on the entertainment news shows. Nope. This guy is much more modest. But in my house, he ranks up there with the Bono's and the Springsteen's of the world. His name is Tony Abbott, and he is the incredibly talented author of The Secrets of Droon series -- The very books that introduced my oldest son to the joy and wonder of reading.

I never imagined I would have the opportunity to meet the man behind the books. So, when he recently turned up at a conference I attended, I went from poised(ish) aspiring author to crazed groupie in a matter of seconds. Clutching three copies of the first Droon book in my hands, I set about tracking Mr. Abbott down. I was a woman on a mission. My heart sank when he wasn't at the scheduled book signing, but I persevered and later found him quietly going over his notes for a presentation scheduled for later that afternoon. Elvis was in the building!

Mr. Abbott not only signed three (yes, three!) copies of his book for both of my sons (and even one for myself!), but he also graciously allowed me to stumble through a heartfelt though somewhat sloppy (remember, the guy's my rock star!) "Thank You" for the gift of this wonderful series.

What I didn't get to tell Mr. Abbott is that every day since the conference when I sit down to write, the memory of the smiles on my boys' faces as I handed them their copies of the signed books, gives me the inspiration to put words on the page. I can only hope that one day one of my books will have the same impact on a young reader. After all, isn't turning a child on to the magic of reading the ultimate reward?

May. 17th, 2011

From Hobby to Habit

You may have heard of Christmas in April, well, I am officially declaring today "New Year's in May." After two extraordinary years filled with lots of hard work and loads of good books, I now have my MFA in Children's Literature from Simmons College. Hooray! Having popped the graduation champagne corks and spent an energizing and inspirational weekend at the NESCBWI conference, it is officially time to put all I've learned to work. My "New Year's" resolution is to get to work - to get to writing -to turn this hobby that I love into a habit so that it can become a way of life.

Anybody else out there have a New Year's resolution? Who says you have to wait until January 1st anyhow?!!

Dec. 30th, 2010

New Beginnings

It's been almost five months since my last post, and here I am now with all the possibilities of a brand new year right around the corner. 2010 was one heck of a year, and while there were times that I will always cherish (a gondola ride with my family in Venetian twilight, spur of the moment evenings with friends, lazy afternoon snuggles with the kids), the promise of new beginnings and 365 days of unknown possibilities makes me eager to usher in 2011.

There is also a very literal new beginning that has already presented itself -- the beginning of a new novel. As a newbie writer, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to explore the lives a fresh cast of characters, but I must confess that it's a little hard to say "goodbye" to the ones that I spent the last year with. Their voices creep into my head, and I have to remind myself that they aren't a part of this new world. Not to mention the fact that I'm more than a little intimidated by the prospect of starting from scratch. What if I'm a one manuscript wonder??

I know that the solution is to just sit down and write, but I can't help but feel like I need a ceremony of sorts, a ritual to say "goodbye" to the old and "welcome" to the new.

Any ideas?

Happy New Year, friends!

Jul. 12th, 2010

It's Been Awhile...

Well, it's been a good long while since I wrote one of these. With the kids home from school, summer travel and out of town guests, the days and weeks are flying by. Not that I am complaining. We recently returned from a dream-come-true trip to Italy with the kids and my parents.

We went to Venice:

Then Rome:

And finally, Florence:

It was such an incredible experience to watch the boys explore a foreign country. They were patient and curious, they used Italian phrases whenever and wherever they could, and they ate with abandon. But the parts I will never forget were the little moments, watching the boys stroll down the Via Venetto holding hands with their grandparents or snuggling up next to them for a late night Gondola ride. I am so thankful that we seized this precious moment in time when we were all healthy and able to explore this great big world together and make memories that will last us all a lifetime.

Viva Italia!

Jun. 7th, 2010

Prayer to the Election Gods

We've held signs. We've made phone calls. We've walked for miles handing out brochures in humidity so high you could wring the water out of our clothes when we were done. We've done all that we can do, and as of tomorrow morning at 8am, this election will now be solely in the hands of the voters.

Dear Election Gods,

1. We need a new high school - for our children and for our town.

2. Ensuring that our children have access to the best possible education is the greatest gift we can give them. That requires a strong, determined and dedicated School Committee. Jen Jester is up for the challenge. She's the one we want to stand up for our kids.

To quote the famous Dr. Seuss:
"The time has come. The time is now."

Come on, Longmeadow, we've got to vote "YES" now!

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