Monday, November 1, 2010

The Nursery that IS

Back before there were Schmidtlets, we used to refer to their room as the NTB: Nursery To Be. It was my favorite writing room -- how can you beat whiteboard walls?

But they're not my whiteboards anymore -- and I've spent the past few weeks fussing over every other detail of the NTI. You'd be surprised that it's possible to spend 12 hours researching knobs, but when you're Bed RestLess, why not?

So, mayhaps finishing the twins room became a minor obsession. Thank God for the internet, which made assembling the room a snap… well, a snap for ME.

St. Matt and my in-laws had to do all of the hard labor I lay on the daybed and supervised – while my bed rest bodyguard went into stealth mode and scrutinized every move I made.

Without further ado, I present the Schmidtlets' room!

But just because the room is ready, doesn't mean the twins are.  Stay put, Schmidtlets!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sticker Charts and Schmidtlets

I've always been a rules girl. Sticker charts were made for people like me. If I set the table I got a sticker. If I made my bed I got a sticker. If I went a whole day without a time out in the Naughty Chair, that was worth at least three stickers. 

I'm not going to say I never tried to manipulate this system (comforter pulled up over a tangle of sheets never works, does it?) but this method of rule à reward had always worked well for me.

Um, it still works well: Revise one page, get one Revision Skittle…

Which is why bed rest baffles me.

I've followed the rules. I spend all of my time confined between the headboard and footboard of my sleigh bed or down on the couch in a flurry of pillows. Bathroom visits are a field trip – but only require a couple dozen steps. Food is the same: St. Matt emptied and carried our wine fridge up to the bedroom and stocks it daily with a large enough food and liquid selections for a woman who's carrying at least quintuplets.

All that's required of me is that I stay put – and the payoff is healthy babies who also stay put.

Which is why bed rest baffles me.

I've done my part…

… the Schmidtlets don't seem to want to do theirs.

I may gripe a bit and I may complain of BedRestlessness, but, in truth, my role is easy.  I've got an engrossing WIP to play with, shelves of books we've stockpiled (I read seven last week alone), TV's with DVR, friends a few keystrokes or phone digits away, and a saintly, saintly, truly saintly husband who has gone out of his way to envision things I might want, before I've even dreamed them up.

What's not easy:  knowing I've followed the directions with NASA precision, and the results aren't in my control.

We've started steroid shots to advance the Schmidtlets' lung development. We've started packing our hospital bag. We've started prioritizing the to-do list for the what-if?

Preparation is great, of course, but it doesn't change anything. It doesn't grant me a second more of pregnancy if the twins decide that NOW is when they want to arrive.

But they haven't picked Now, or Now, or even Now and every second they continue to grow is a blessing.

So, stay put little ones. The world is waiting to love and cherish you, but it will still be waiting in a few weeks. And your momma will put extra stickers on your sticker charts if you make it a month or more. Stay.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Do not pass Go. Report directly to BED

 My last day of school was Friday. I've spent the past seven weeks very conflicted about today – the battle of exhaustion versus my desire to teach. I wasn't surprised to discover that I woke up this morning feeling a little lost soul-ish.

I spent the morning as a flitterbug --  popping from one task to the next without accomplishing much of anything. Any progress I might have made was hindered by Biscotti. She's been a wee bit overprotective as of late; she will not let the Twin Belly out of her sight. Today she added a new trick:  doing her dangdest to herd me back to bed.

I should've listened.

This afternoon we had our first NONstress test. They hooked up monitors to capture the babies' heartbeats and a third monitor to my uterus.  In typical Bean Sprout fashion, he showed off for the doctors by doing all sorts of barrel rolls and squirm-worm maneuvers. And in typical Twin Belly fashion, my uterus reacted to his movements by having what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions.

They weren't. Apparently they're the real deal.  And regular.

The doctor took one look at my printout and announced: Bed Rest.

St. Matt and I exchanged a look that said everything: But wait! We're not ready yet. It's my first day off work. You said I'd have some time to run errands and take it easy. I was going to make cookies tonight. We were going to walk the dogs. I have plans tomorrow. We have plans this weekend. We're NOT Ready.

Out loud we said, "Okay, what do we need to know?" because none of that matters. And we'll do just about anything to make sure these two little boys stay put and stay safe for as many weeks as possible.

So now I sit. And wait. Thursday AM's our next NST and I'm hoping for better results.

In the meantime, Biscotti, bodyguard puggle extraordinaire, is thrilled that I'm taking her advice and lying down. If a puggle could gloat, that's what she'd be doing, from her supervisory post at the foot of my bed.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Practice Separation

Today my class was supposed to be going on a field trip that includes a nature hike and sploshing around in a river, picking up slippery rocks and looking for macroinvertibrates. I wish there was an emoticon that truly captures the look my doctor gave me when I asked him about it. Part: Are-you-serious? Part: Don't-even-dream-of-it. Part: Do-I-have-to-chain-you-to-a-couch-and-feed-you-a-diet-of-Common-Sense-&-Caution.

Outcome: I won't be going; apparently nature trails and river explorations are not acceptable activities for people who can no longer see their feet. So I took the day off… and woke up to it bucketing out and the trip being postponed.

I am not handling this well. My parent chaperones received four different e-mails with instructions for today (& then cancelling today) – and this was only partially due to baby brain causing the omission of important details like WHEN they should show up at school. I also called the substitute at home twice to give her directions and left her two sets of plans: one for the trip and one for in case the trip was cancelled. My cell number is circled in red in case she runs into any questions. Not that she'll need it, the kiddos in my class this year are the definition of angelic.

And here I sit, at home, fighting the urge to pick up the phone and call in to my classroom to make sure there are no last minute questions. Did I mention that the school day only started 15 minutes ago?

If I need to, (once I finish typing this) I will sit on my hands. Hide my phone. Go outside and pace the backyard --- *looks out window*. Maybe not that last one. And, er, maybe I shouldn't hide my phone. With baby brain it's likely I'll never find it again.

I will not, however, call, e-mail, or go visit the school to check on the kiddos. Will. Not.

Can you sense that I'm having some separation anxiety? There are two weeks until I have to walk out of my classroom door and teach myself not to look back. After October 15th, they are not MY class anymore.

Once the Schmidtlets arrive, I know I'll be far too enamored with my bundles of baby to miss them. But it's the interim weeks, the couch rest leading into bed rest weeks, that keep me up at night.

I'm not a sitter. I'm not a TV watcher. I'm not a do-for-me-what-I-can-do-for-myself girl. And more than all that, I'm not good at good-byes or letting go. Each year I cry at elementary school graduation as my kiddos prepare to leave for the summer and middle school.  This year I'll be the one leaving, and I need to learn to be okay with that.

So today is practice. And just in case I've forgotten the reason for all this sitting, I've scheduled an ultrasound for this afternoon. One look at those squirmy Schmidtlets on the screen and I'm sure I'll find all the strength I need to park my Twin Belly on the couch. It'll be a great reminder to stop looking backwards and to look forward to a time when those babies are out of the Twin Belly and in my arms.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

St. Mohawk

So, I have haircut issues. I have other issues, too, but today's post is about my haircuts.

I don't like them. I mean, I like them fine when I'm the one getting my haircut.  Other people? Sure, cut it off, perm it up, straighten, highlight, dye it stripey, shave in swoops.

I guess I should clarify, I have St. Matt Haircut Issues.

This is not a new thing. It harkens back to the first summer we were dating, when he'd gotten a haircut before coming to visit me in MA. Only, he didn't warn me first.

I should clarify some more. St. Matt only really has three hairstyles:
  1. Short on the sides, a little longer on top. Generic boy. 
  2. The I'm-too-lazy-to-get-a-haircut stage that drives him crazy, but I openly encourage because it leads to Option 3: 
  3. Curls! Which drive him more crazy, but which I love, Love, LOVE.
Okay, back to summer 2000.

So, this boy shows up on my parents' doorstep and wants to hug and kiss me. Granted I'm loopy on pain meds because I just had ankle surgery, but I nearly fall off my crutches trying to back away from him. *Stranger Danger!* Where was my curly-headed boyfriend? Who was this guy with ears?

This is where the haircut issues originated.  They haven't abated. Since then we've come up with a coping method: I require multiple reminders of any forthcoming haircuts; I'm also allowed a moment to *absorb* my husband's new appearance before he approaches.

And he doesn't take it personally when my reaction is always, "I'm not quite sure I like it."

Friday was haircut day. I walked in the house and he did the required *freeze in place* so I could examine and adjust.

And since he knows my haircut history and has only ever had the three hairstyles, he took it in stride when I said, "I don't know, you look different."

"I'm still me." This was offered with a Saintly grin and arms extended for a hug.

"No, something's different. It's not right." I continued to circle him.

Saintly sigh. "You always say that. Wait until tomorrow when I shower and style it. It's fine."

I gave him a wary nod of agreement and tried my best not to study him all night.

Saturday morning things did not look "fine." They were still different.

"What did you tell the barber?"

St. Matt frowned at the mirror; even he could see something wasn't quite right. "I said, The usual. Short on the sides, longer on top."

It is short on the sides and longer on top. That much I have to agree with. But, the sides are shorter than usual short. The top is longer than usual long. And the sides climb higher on his head than normal. They climb SO high that they're invading the top's territory.

This is when we realized the truth about his haircut: it's an Accidental Mohawk.
Since reaching this epiphany, I haven't even attempted to hide my glee.

First, the sight of a mohawked St. Matt is enough to reduce me to instant gigglefits.

Second, I know someone who'll be reluctant to head back to the barber anytime soon.

Say hello to a curl-headed winter!

Monday, August 23, 2010

An Infestation of Adorable

Casa Schmidt is being invaded! Thankfully it's the cutest infestation that's ever occurred. Baby things are slowly taking over: there's a pack 'n play box under the piano; a boppy blocking the bookshelf; two highchairs and two car seats stacked in our family room. And the NTB forget it, I won't open the door for fear of tripping over the baskets of blankets, clothing and toys waiting to be organized.

Sometimes they arrive at a trickle: a box waiting on the porch when I get home from a puggle walk or a gift bag from a friend when we meet for lunch. Other times it's a deluge, like this weekend when I went to MA for my first shower. A car packed to the brim with boxes and bags and a long drive home full of "Bruschi, that rattle is NOT for you. Leave it!"

As the piles of baby stuff and my twin belly grow, the growth takes on new meaning: this is real. Soon the Schmidtlets will be sitting in those seats, wearing those clothes.

It occurs to me, this whole process of being spoiled rotten/stuff accumulation is a lot like planning a new book and getting to know the characters and the world.

Sometimes facts come slowly – they pop up by surprise – but instead of a FedEx man at the door, it's a moment of Wow, my heroine's hair is curly or my hero used to be studly jock, but he's not anymore. I add these to my character profiles where facts accumulate in piles, while I try to figure out if they're significant – and, yes, curly hair IS important in my WIP – or even if they're true.

Knowledge also comes in a flash flood; I'll wake up with a scene fully formed in my mind, or come back from a swim with a major plot point resolved.

In both instances, I'm forever changing my mind. Bumpo seat? Baby pod? Neither? I read reviews, ask advice from mothers and add and remove these items from my registry. With writing, there's the same vacillation. The include and delete. Rewrites. The long e-mails to CP's and bracketed comments of [cut this? Or amp up? Ahhh! Decide later!]

But neither process is overnight – and they aren't to be rushed. I want those Schmidtlets to stay just where they are for a few months yet. They're not ready and I'm not ready for them either. (Um, cribs… we need to get those).

My WIP's not ready either. We're still getting to know each other. The better I understand my characters, the more realistic they'll be on paper. Real people are many-faceted, and the most realistic and resonant characters I've read have been equally complicated.

Getting to know them isn't logical, sequential or predictable either. Just like with the baby presents, I can make a list of the things I need, or in writing's case, need to know (appearance, history, motivations, desires), but it's often the unexpected facts and gifts that are the most meaningful.

So my world is being invaded with swaddling blankets and itsy-bitsy onesies. With personality quirks and characters' favorite expressions. My house is full and my mind is busy. I'm making sure my laptop isn't buried beneath bassinets or baby slings and trying not to confuse plot post-its with thank you notes.

I know life's about to get crazier, but when I look around at the Infestation of Adorable or stop and reflect upon my WIP, all I can do is smile and whisper a thank you that I'm blessed with such rewarding chaos.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reflections from Camp Barry - Cabin A102

I'm home from Camp Barry and slowly emerging from post-travel hibernation. I miss the buffets full of chocolate bread. I miss the pools. I miss the heat lamps in my hotel room bathroom.

But mostly, I miss the people.

And not just because roommate extraordinaire, Jenn Reese, saved me from taking Will-Ferrell-in-ELF type showers by figuring out how to activate the upper showerhead. Or because Liz Braswell told me the greatest fact about pregnancy, which will carry me through these next five months. Or because Charles Vess *doodles* so beautifully that I was too busy watching him to ever demonstrate my own mad skill with daisies and interlinking hearts. Or because I feel so much more capable of handling the Schmidtlets after spending hours discussing them twins with Pat Smith and Beth Fleischer. **

These were all wonderful moments. But they were just part of the BIGGER wonderfulness that is Camp Barry.

So, no, it wasn't the buffet.

It was the buffet full of chocolate bread and meals where we lingered like college freshmen, too busy talking and sharing ideas to realize how much we were stuffing in our faces.

And it wasn't the pools.

It was the late night pool sessions where I laughed hard enough to worry that this might be the night I didn't make it to the bathroom in time. (Seriously, Club Med, bathrooms close to the pools is not a new idea).

Okay, I'm not going to lie, the heat lamps in the bathroom were pretty sweet. Especially when it's 1:30 AM and you're shivering in a cold wet bathing suit because you forgot to turn down the A/C.

But the thing that made Camp Barry magical was the people. The intense conversations and debates, the jokes, the stories, the sharing. Being surrounded by such a creative, sincere, and inspirational group of individuals for four days was an experience that cannot be replicated.

At least, not until next year.

** I could go on and mention a special memory with each of my fellow campers, but my mom taught me it's mean to brag about The Awesome Quotient of your friends... even when they're Really Freakin' Awesome.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This IS A Post About Italy

I leave for the airport in 9 hours for the Goldblatt Agency retreat. I still haven’t packed – this surprises no one – and I still haven’t blogged about the Italian adventures that took place between my last two airport experiences.

Some of you have been demanding photographic evidence of the trip – and pictures of the Twin Belly. I can satisfy both requests simultaneously – and quickly – and then go pack!

Sorrento – and a Twin Belly! That’s because after 48 hours after WE got to Sorrento, our luggage finally caught up with us. I’ve never been so happy to change clothing.

Capri – The island is gorgeous. And hilly. LOOK how hilly. I was a brave little trouper and made it DOWN the hills, but we need a taxi to cart the Twin Belly back up.

Naples – There are castles in Naples. CASTLES.

Castles make me curtsey.
And, no worries, St. Matt came, too!

Packing. Now. Really.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This is NOT a Post About Italy

So, I tell you we're having some babies, I accept all of your congratulations, and then I disappear again. Bad Tiffany!

I was actually unplugged and off-grid for a ten days, enjoying a "babymoon" in Italy with St. Matt. And believe it or not, I didn't go through Petunia-withdrawal or whine about missing my laptop – not even once. *pats self on the back*

And while there are plenty of Italia stories to tell – look! I even included a teaser picture – today all I can think about is names.

Baby names.

When I'm writing a story I go crazy picking the perfect names for my characters – they have to match temperament, appearance, background, etc. But luckily, I know the character before I know the name and if I need to change it halfway through the book, that's what the "Find and Replace" command is for.

Not so much for the Schmidtlets in my belly.

And right off the bat, there was going to be none of this "Baby A" and "Baby B" business that the doctors insist on using. We weren't even in our car, and I certainly hadn't recovered from the news it was twins, when I was already paling and saying: "Now we need twice as many names."

But, seeing as we had a good four months before we'd find out gender, interim names were a must. St. Matt suggested Alpha and Beta

What can I say? He's an engineer.

I countered with Alcott and Bronte and was resoundingly shot down. Why? Because, as St. Matt so wisely realized, "You're going to get attached and want to actually name them that."

He was right. Later that night I woke him up: "Alcott's kinda cute, isn't it? For a girl? We could call her Ally for short."

So you can see why NON-NAME interim names became essential.

After a week of what-about-this? and what-about-that? We settled on two: Acorn, and Bean Sprout. (See how they're still A and B words… St. Matt is SUCH an engineer).

But now there comes a bigger problem. REAL names…

I have post-its of possibilities everywhere. I've just about worn out Baby Name Voyager. In Italy – look, another teaser picture – I stopped St. Matt at every playbill and construction sign so I could read the names of contractors and actors.

He's learning not to get too attached to any name, because as soon as we find something we both agree on, I change my mind.

I'm learning not to wake him up in the middle of the night when I come up with potentials – because the interrupted-REM answer is always, "No."

The fact that we've got roughly five more months to find the perfect combinations of first and middle names has not prevented me from lying awake and whispering ideas at the ceiling. Or turning to the bookshelf beside my bed and scanning for ideas.

… you know, now that I think about it, Bronte's kinda cute, too.

Monday, July 5, 2010

An Explanation and An Announcement

It's been a heckofa long time since I blogged. Normally I don't make excuses for blog lapses; you just can assume I've been: A) busy B) lazy C) uninspired or D) held hostage by a band of wild sixth graders who insist I grade their personal narratives thisveryminute.

This time my blog-absence was absurdly long. But I have a good reason.
very good reasons:

Baby A
Baby B

St. Matt and I are expecting our first children -- twins -- early next winter.

Go ahead and jump up and down in glee for me -- the doctor says *I'm* to refrain from impish dancing. Do you know how hard it is to refrain from impish dancing and other hijinks when you're this elated? WICKED HARD!

And while the Schmidtlets (lettes?) will be the very best things to happen to us, they are also terrible nausea-monsters. I've spent most of the past 3 months in varying shades of green.

Luckily green is my second-favorite color.

Even more lucky is the fact that The Queasy is finally, finally starting to pass.

Until it's completely gone, however, I'll keep rocking my sea-sickness bracelets and wearing a pea-soup completion with a smile. They're the latest trends, you know.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Pay It Forward Interview: Heidi Kling

For my last days of Paying it Forward, I'll be interviewing authors who have books coming out this spring. While I feel like this week is going so fast, I'm sure Chelsea and Heidi are counting down the interminable minutes until their release days! Hopefully you've taken some time this week to visit some of the other writers' blogs (links below), and let yourself be inspired and encouraged by their publication journeys. There are more than 70(!) writers participating, so clear some time for blog-reading.

Heidi Kling's book, SEA, releases on June 1oth and has one of the most stunning covers I've seen lately. The story sounds equally amazing and after reading Heidi's story and passion below, I'm sure you'll be joining me on the pre-ordered list.

1 . Tell us about your book.

Sea is a romantic adventure story about a fearful California teenager's
life-changing trip to a post-tsunami Indonesian orphanage. Ultimately, it's
a love story about hope after tragedy. (Longer version on my website:

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication?

I found an interested agent at a "Speed dating agent event" in
S.F.--after hearing my pitch. Sea wasn't finished, and we had a trip to
France planned so I actually finished the draft there. I ended up not going
with that agent, but after I finished and polished the book, I asked an
author contact of mine via MySpace for a short-list of YA authors she heard
good things about. She suggested five. I queried them all. My agent wrote
me back right away requesting a "full" of SEA--other things transpired, and
she offered representation. We had multiple offers within two weeks. This
SOUNDS like it was a quicky thing, but I've been writing since I was 17,
earned both my BA and MFA in creative writing, wrote several "drawer"
novels, had queried and been rejected for past projects. SEA, from it's
very inception, felt like it would be for me "the one". And it was!

3. Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you?

I would never have given up on trying to publish SEA. I felt (and feel) so strongly that the story of survivors of a natural disaster, especially teen and
child survivors, don't have a voice in literature or in film--especially
after the news cameras go home and the hype goes away. I feel SEA gives
them a voice. Plus, so many teens and adults feel lost and don't know how
they can find their way back. It's very important to me to be optimistic
and hopeful and I think traveling with Sienna (who feels lost and hopeless)
to Indonesia is a good thing. It was a good thing for me. My point is, I
would never have given up on this book. I would have kept trying and
pushing until it sold.

4. I wouldn't have survived querying/revisions/submissions without...

... my eternally optimistic nature, my incredible support team (husband, friends, online network)and the knowledge that with hard work and some luck we can all find our happy ending.

Now that you've enjoyed Heidi's interview, click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, and Elana Johnson.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pay It Forward Interview : Chelsea Campbell

For my last two days of Paying it Forward, I'll be interviewing authors who have books coming out this spring. While I feel like this week is going so fast, I'm sure Chelsea and Heidi are counting down the interminable minutes until their release days! Hopefully you've taken some time this week to visit some of the other writers' blogs (links below), and let yourself be inspired and encouraged by their publication journeys. There are more than 70(!) writers participating, so clear some time for blog-reading.

Chelsea Campbell's book, The Rise of Renegade X, releases on May 11th. While I haven't been lucky enough to read it yet, I've been assured by multiple, taunting ARC-readers that I will adore it. (meanies!) After reading about Chelsea's determined and bumpy publication journey, I'm sure you'll be joining me in line on 5/11 to pick up your own copy.

1. Tell us about your book.

The Rise of Renegade X is about a teen supervillain whose plans to go to a prestigious supervillain school are ruined when he discovers his long lost dad is a superhero, of the good-deed doing, rescuing kittens out of trees type. And as if that wasn't bad enough, then he has to go live with him for a while and meet his superhero half siblings and prove that, despite his genes, he's 100% villain, or else he'll have to stay with his superhero fam for the rest of his life (or until he turns 18, whichever comes first).

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication?

I wrote Renegade X in a month, but getting it published was a long, dark road that took about a year and a half. (Well, to find a publisher. When the book actually comes out in May, it'll have been nearly three years since I wrote it.) It was clearly the best book I'd ever written, and one of my writing friends was convinced it would get snapped up right away. I SO wanted that to happen, but I'd sent out so many books over the years and always been disappointed that, even though this felt like The One (for reals this time), I didn't want to get my hopes up.

Well, I sent it out to agents, including one who still had the last book I'd written and hadn't rejected me yet (even if it had been 6 months -__-). My query letter got over twice as many requests for material than any of my others had, but still everyone said no. Then finally one day, I status queried the agent who now had two of my books and hadn't responded, and she liked it! She liked it better than the first book I'd sent her, which she'd actually read! (And yes, you read that right, I'm not exaggerating, she *liked* it. Not loved.)

So anyway, I signed with her and waited on submissions. We got some responses right away, all rejections. Months went by, and we got a few more rejections. I sent her another book, and after a few more months, she sent that out. When I tried to find out which editors still had Renegade X, she just said "it's still out there." O__o By this point, I was starting to have misgivings, but put them aside because I wanted this so badly. Then several more months went by, no word from her at all, and then I queried her on where she'd sent my books, who had the old one, who had the new one. No response. A week later, I tried again. No response. The next week, I tried calling. Twice. But no answer, and no response to the message I left. No matter how much I wanted and agent, and no matter how many long years it had taken me to get this one, I knew that if she wasn't sending out my books, then she was just getting in my way, because it meant I couldn't send them out either. So I did something that wasn't easy and fired her. (She was relieved.)

It turned out she'd only sent the new book to one publisher, and she sent me a slightly inaccurate list of pubs who had rejected Renegade X or who had just never responded after having it for months. (???) Well, at least I had a list, but Renegade X was used goods. It had been shopped around by an agent who hadn't sold it, and that's the kiss of death for hopeful manuscripts. At this point, everything in my life was going wrong and especially this. I'd wanted to be published so bad I could taste it for a decade and a half. (I started young, but I was serious about it, if not naive and delusional.) I wasn't writing anything new, and my energy for the struggle was running out. Things were at their darkest, and I was ready to give up.

But there were two books that really influenced me. One was Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss, where he says not to be in the Waiting Place (I was definitely there) and the other was It's Not Easy Being Green, a collection of quotes and anecdotes about Jim Henson. One of the anecdotes was about how he wanted to work at a TV station, but they turned him down. He saw an ad on the wall saying they were looking for puppeteers, though, so he went home, made some puppets, and came back. They hired him, and, well, you can see how puppets worked out for him. The moral of the story was, don't take no for an answer. So that's what I decided to do.

But I felt like a failure, and I was ready to give up. I'd come so far, worked so hard over the years, and I'd gotten so close to my goal--only to completely miss it. The uphill climb was too steep, and I wasn't going to make it. But before I threw in the towel, I made one last effort. I sent The Rise of Renegade X to a small publisher, not really expecting anything to happen.

And then, a month later, they wanted to talk to me. About my book. The editor was interested, but he wanted revisions. I took his notes and added another 20k to the book in about a week, sent it back, and waited. A few weeks later, I had an offer. Someone actually wanted to publish my book!

My writing friends told me I needed an agent. I'd had an agent, and that hadn't worked out so well, so I wasn't eager to get another one. Plus, getting an agent was hard. I'd struggled for years, and all I could get was an agent who only *liked* my books and didn't talk to me. Why go through all that again? But my friends insisted I both needed an agent--a good one--and that, with a pub offer in hand, I could actually get one.

I got some recommendations and ended up contacting Holly Root at the Waxman Agency. She loved my concept. (Loved!) And she wanted to read the book. Well, a few days later, we talked on the phone for longer than I'd ever spoken to the old agent. (Not kidding.) She got my books. She loved Renegade X. We laughed, we talked, and overall just clicked. It was a dream-come-true moment, and I signed with her, and she's been awesome ever since.

Anyhow, I gave her a list of the editors who had rejected Renegade X, and she felt it hadn't been properly shopped, and before accepting the offer I had on the table, we sent the book out to a few more pubs. That's when I got the offer from Egmont. They loved the book and wanted to publish it! I accepted their offer almost exactly 18 months after finishing the book. It was a long journey, and there were a lot of dark moments, but it all worked out in the end.

3. Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you?

Yes! Lots of times. I think every aspiring writer goes through cycles of "I'm just going to quit writing," but then you don't really. You just want to test what it would feel like, to see if you could quit and still live with yourself, but of course you can't. I had a lot of moments like that. But then there was the time close to the end of my journey where I really did want to quit. I was out of hope and couldn't make myself care about writing anymore. But as you can see from my above answer, everything suddenly turned around at the last minute and all worked out, just when I thought it was never going to be.

4. I wouldn't have survived querying/revisions/submissions without _________________.

My crit group/writing friends. They always believed in me, even when I didn't.

Now that you've enjoyed Chelsea's interview, click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, and Elana Johnson.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pay it Forward Interview: Trish Doller

At noon today, we'll be half way through Pay it Forward interview week -- it's going so fast! Hopefully you've taken some time to visit some of the other writers' blogs (links below), and let yourself be inspired and encouraged by their publication journeys. There are more than 70(!) writers participating, so clear some time for blog-reading.

Today I'm lucky enough to be interviewing the lovely Trish Doller. I found her story of perseverance and pot holes to be courageous and motivational, and I'm sure you will, too.

1. Tell us about your book.

My first book is called MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY, a YA romantic comedy about a spoiled, rich girl who gets sent on a cross-country teen bus tour after failing her U.S. History final. She misses the bus in New York City, sending her on an even bigger adventure. It's been on submission to publishers since July 2009, but has yet to find a home. In the meantime, I've been working on my next book, which couldn't be further from MY WAY. It's a boy-centric, military-themed YA about a young Marine returning from a deployment to Afghanistan. The tentative title is THE NEW NORMAL.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication (finding an agent)?

My road to publication has been filled with potholes--and orange construction barrels. I finished MY WAY in September 2007 and started querying agents in early October. I was fortunate in that I found my agent, Kate Schafer Testerman, by Thanksgiving 2007. She was in the process of starting KT Literary, so we waited to go out on submission until February 2008. Within a few weeks we sold the book, but my editor lost her job in budget cuts and my deal died in the pipeline. I made some revisions and we went back out on submission in July 2009, but we haven't seen the same success we did the first time around.

3. Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you?

I feel like giving up all. the. time. But we came close enough with MY WAY that I believe my time is coming. As much as I love my first book, my second just might be the book of my heart. So I can't give up.

4. I wouldn't have survived querying/revisions/submissions without _________________.

I wouldn't have survived querying/revisions/submissions without my agent, who talks me down whenever I'm feeling frustrated, and Suzanne Young, who is my biggest cheerleader. Oh, and Godiva raspberry-filled chocolate.

Now that you've enjoyed Trish's interview, click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, and Elana Johnson.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pay It Forward Interview: Susan Adrian

Hello on day 2 of Pay it Forward interview week! Hopefully you've taken some time to visit some of the other writers' blogs (links below), and let yourself be inspired and encouraged by their publication journeys. There are more than 70(!) writers participating, so clear some time for blog-reading.

And *cough* MY *cough* interview is going up today at: . Go check it out. There's a Mia- haiku involved...

Susan Adrian aka the inspiration behind all those Twitter "tiara days" is a champion cheerleader and beacon of positivity. With all the good karma she's spread, she's due for heaps in return. Watch out for her name in the upcoming years, you'll be seeing it.

1. Tell us about your book.

SALVAGED is the book I'm working on now, and I'm SO excited about it. Here's the basic blurb (I always do one of these while I'm writing the first draft):

Sixteen-year-old Annika (Annie) has never used a computer or a cell phone. She's never watched TV, slept in a real bed, or kissed anyone but Xander. Until now.

Annie's always lived in The Community, an ultra-environmental commune tucked in the canyons of San Diego, led by her idealistic, maybe-crackpot dad. What they can't grow or raise they salvage from the wasteful people of "the wild". You'd be amazed what you can find back of a restaurant. But Xander runs away with Annie's sister Zilla, and Dad sends her to drag them back.

To find them Annie has to venture into the wild by herself, into an alien culture of excess. When she crashes a company picnic she meets Bryan, a cute, rich boy who thinks she's homeless. She lets him think it, lets him help. All she needs is a couple days to get Zilla and Xander.

But once she finds them, Annie's not so sure she wants to return, much less force her happy-go-lucky, impulsive sister back under the strict Community rules. The wild is much more complex and captivating than she imagined. And there's Bryan, who's also just a tiny bit captivating. But if she doesn't bring them home soon, Dad will come after them himself. And the last time he brought a runaway home...that's the one thing Annie won't let herself think about.

Can Annie be salvaged? Does she want to be?

It's a real challenge to get the point-of-view right--a girl who has none of the cultural knowledge most teenagers are drenched in. Of course that challenge is what makes it fun.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication (finding an agent)?

Like most other writers, my road has been--and continues to be--decidedly unsmooth. My first book was a historical, set in Chaucer's England, with a 16-year-old protagonist (always the YA!). I got some strong agent interest, but no takers. So I wrote a straight-up contemporary YA, a juicy mix of all my favorite stuff, all my passions. I could tell the difference, between writing what I thought I should write and what I *loved*. Fortunately my agent, the fabulous and sharkly Janet Reid, loved it too. Even though that book didn't sell right out of the box the way we wanted it to, I'm SO glad I wrote it, and that it led me to Janet.

3. Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you?

Of course! I think every writer has those crippling moments where the possibility enters your mind--where the rejections and the doubt monsters get so loud and hurtful you consider just Not Doing It Anymore. You can't face the battery of rejection that is this business without that feeling. The trick is to let yourself feel that way...for about 10 minutes. Then go talk to some of your writer friends and get support. Let their encouragement soak in. And then realize, if you're meant to be doing this--if you've got writing in you--you'll keep doing it anyway. It'll pop out somewhere. You don't HAVE to keep trying to get published, but I have a feeling you probably will. Just like I will. I want others, especially teens, to read and enjoy the stories I have to tell.

4. I wouldn't have survived querying/revisions/submissions without ___?

My writer friends. They are there for me every single day. I don't see how I could do any of this without them.

Now that you've enjoyed Suze's interview, click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, and Elana Johnson.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pay it Forward Interviews: Linda Grimes

Welcome to Pay it Forward interview week! Here and all over the writer blogs (links below), you'll be drenched in inspiration and encouragement from others' stories about their publication journeys. There are more than 70(!) writers participating, so clear some time for blog-reading.

Linda Grimes is like my literary, wise, big sister - she signed with her agent about a month before I signed with mine, so before I do anything I stop and ask myself "What would Linda do?" And then I double-check by asking her, too. She's brilliant, lovely and has wicked wit. Enjoy!

1. Tell us about your book.

IN A FIX is a comically, sexily, wait -- oh, all right, it's a bawdy paranormal mystery centered around Ciel Halligan, a do-gooder who just wants to help people, and maybe make a small profit doing it. (A girl's gotta eat.) From a family of "aura adaptors" -- human chameleons who can project the appearance of anyone they touch -- Ciel is perfectly suited to step into her clients' lives and fix their problems for them. As them. Too bad she's not quite as adept at fixing her own.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication (finding an agent)?

I'm at the agented-but-still-unsold phase. If you're reading this, you're doing exactly what I did--engaging in the online writing community. The information available at the click of a mouse is amazing. Sites like, as well as the blogs of individual authors, agents, and editors, are incredible resources. Read them!

IN A FIX is actually the book I wrote to keep myself busy while giving my first novel--the one I cut my teeth on--a little distance. The plan was to play around with something light and funny as a kind of writer-ly palate cleanser before I dove into revisions on the first book. Turned out I liked my diversion better, so I decided what the heck, did my online research, and sent out a few queries.

Initially, I got some positive feedback, but mostly of the "I like this, but it's not quite for me" sort. Kept sending out more queries, a few at a time, trying to gauge the response and tinker accordingly. I didn't want to use the scatter-shot method of mass querying, because frankly I thought it would confuse me. So I researched every agent I approached, via both the internet and by peppering my writing buddies -- the ones a little farther down the road to publication -- with annoying questions. I got to know the agents as well as I could without stalking them, just to reassure myself ahead of time I would be happy to have them if they decided to offer.

Waiting for replies from only a few agents at a time can take a while, but I was determined not to find myself in the position of hearing back from someone and wondering, "Huh? Who's that?"

In the end, it was Twitter that came through for me. I started following Michelle Wolfson, Agent Extraordinaire (@WolfsonLiterary). She was so funny I knew I had to try for her. Sent her a query and got a response back right away (apparently Michelle appreciates "bawdy"). After reading my partial, she asked for an exclusive while she read my full. Since some other agents were already reading the full too, I couldn't give it to her. But Michelle was the one who blazed through it -- that made me feel wonderful, I have to tell you -- and DM-ed me on Twitter that she'd like to call me. (And to think, I almost didn't start a Twitter account because I thought it would take too much time away from my writing.)

I was over the moon. Deep down, I'd already decided, after exchanging emails with Michelle as she read my full, that she was the one. She "got" my story, and asked intelligent questions about it. When she called, I was even more certain--she was every bit as funny on the phone as she is on Twitter. But what I really appreciated was, she didn't blow sunshine up, nether region. She didn't make extravagant promises of instant publication. She just explained how we would work together to get my story out there, and I liked the sound of what she told me.

Right now, we're in the revision process, trying to apply enough spit and polish to the manuscript to convince editors it's worth publishing. We'll start submitting soon, and then the waiting will begin again. (Has anyone mentioned how much waiting is involved with writing? This is why it's good to have more than one project going at a time. Writing something new beats the heck out of twiddling your thumbs.)

3. Was there ever a time you felt like giving up?

Honestly? Not really. Oh, there've been low moments, like the time I got a rejection from an agent I hadn't even queried. The agent I had queried liked my book, but it wasn't... quite ... for her. Still, she thought it had enough commercial appeal to show to the head of her agency, who apparently also saw the commercial appeal, but sadly wasn't taking any more clients at that time. (At least, that's what the original agent told me. Maybe she thought it sounded better than "The other agent thought it sucked, too.")

I call that one my "bonus rejection."

Well, I figured if I could survive a two-for-one bonus rejection, no piddly little single rejection was ever going to deter me. And ... well, I'm stubborn. Sure, rejections sting. But ultimately you realize they aren't personal. You take whatever is helpful from them, ignore the rest, and keep on moving. The only way you can really lose is to stop trying.

4. I wouldn't have survived querying/revisions/submissions without:

My fantastic group of fellow writers and crit partners, who've given me support at every step along the way. Thanks, guys! And, of course, chocolate. Oh, and the two-cherry Manhattans made for me by my wonderful husband, Bob, aka the theater god. They help too.

Now that you've enjoyed Linda's interview, click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, and Elana Johnson.

Pay it Forward Interview Week

We've all had those Little Engine That Could moments, where we're telling ourselves, "I think I can. I think I can," even though the Doubt Monster is desperately trying to add an "n't" to the end of that mantra.

This week, YA writer blogs across the net are being sprayed with Doubt Monster repellant in the form of the Pay It Forward Interviews. The brain child of Elana Johnson and Lisa and Laura Roecker this blog interview chain/web focuses on stories of writers at different places on the publication path: from the newly agented to those anxiously counting down the days till their first novel releases.

On my blog, you'll be able to hear stories of five wonderful writers:

3/29 Monday: Linda Grimes

3/30 Tuesday: Susan Adrian

3/31 Wednesday: Trish Doller

4/1 Thursday: Chelsea Campbell

4/2 Friday: Heidi Kling

I hope you stop by each day to see what these talented women had to say. I'm sure you'll find their journeys as inspirational as I do.

And you can find my interview on the fabulous Leah Clifford's blog on Tuesday – she made me write a synopsis in haiku form. I'm not sure I've forgiven her yet.

Wherever you are on your path to publication, I hope you find encouragement in all the interviews this week and apply the collective wisdom to your courageous journey.

Next time that Doubt Monster attacks, remember: patience and perseverance.

I think you can. I think you can.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Confession: I love revising. Love it.

Don't get me wrong, I love drafting too – the suspense of becoming acquainted with new characters and the surprise of figuring out what they'll say and how they'll react. ª

I get the whole Girl Scouts' song "Make new friends…" but I've never had a problem with "but keep the old."

Revisions *contented sigh* are like going home to my friends-since-elementary-school, sitting on a porch and drinking apple cider while we chat and chat.

It's familiar. It's comfortable. And it's engaging. Uncovering new layers, ambitions, motivation. Tightening and interweaving. Discovering threads of nuance I'd already included that need to be enhanced.

Give me colored pens, a large bag of Revision Skittles, and a quiet place to work and I'll stay happily sequestered until St. Matt or the puggles demand some attention or life intervenes. Emerging for bathroom breaks and refills of my mug and Revision Skittles, pausing for Inspiration Walks, Inspiration Workouts and Inspiration Bubble-baths, my mind is full of beloved characters and trouble spots in the manuscript.

And even when I'm away – 26 sixth graders demand a lot of my attention and energy for much of the week – there are scenes and scenarios bubbling away on the back burner of my brain.

So when I'm lacking on Twitter, slacking on my blog and being a delinquent about returning phone calls, don't worry. I haven't been kidnapped by pirates, gotten lost in the woods or come down with an incurable strain of porcine flu.

I'm just ensconced in my revision-cave, sugar-fortified, ink-stained fingers, scribbled-across pages and a smile.

Be back soon.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How to Eat A Cupcake - Team Sparkle Style

The SCBWI winter conference was last week in New York. I was there, as were fellow Team Sparklers: Susan Adrian, Emily Hainsworth and Victoria Schwab… and more than a thousand other writer-people.

It was wonderful.

Just ask Susan:



Or Nova Ren Suma, who we dragged away from her deadline to come conferencing with us.

In fact, because they've already done a fabulous job summarizing and describing all the wonderful people, books, laughter, wisdom, and hijinks we discovered, I don't feel the need to re-state it. Procrastination WIN! I will just add this:

How to Eat A Cupcake – Team Sparkle Style.

…because it is a widely accepted fact that all the best writing is fueled by sugar.

If you've never tried my less-mess sandwich technique, you're missing out. Run, don't walk, to the nearest bakery and procure yourself a cupcake.

Then, once the sugar-jitters have faded, sit down and write some sparkly words.

You can thank me later.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Puppy Penalty: An Excess of Adorable

My Super Bowl pick from yesterday: Anyone but Peyton Manning could win.

I'm sure he's a very nice man, but I don't like him. At all. My dislike of him is rabid in a way I normally reserve for the Yankees. That commercial where he dons a wig and refers to himself in third person as "6'1", laser, rocket arm"… *gags*

So, on a year where Peyton was playing and my own dearest Tom wasn't, I was okay with anyone but Indy winning. *

On years like this one – years where my own red, white, and blue boys aren't on the field, I tend to sulk and pout. My interest in the pigskin championship wanes to the commercials between the plays and finding ways to get annoyed at the announcers.


To the Animal Planet employee who decided America would be interested in watching hours of puppies frolicking in a green pen with football shaped toys, I salute you.

I watched the whole thing yesterday. Twice. Apparently it isn't possible to overdose on adorable.

The Puppy Bowl is also an excellent place to find additions for your List-Of-Future-Dog-Names. What do you mean you don't have a List-Of-Future-Dog-Names? Start one right now. Add Garbanzo, Tater Tot, and Yums.

I want a puppy with each of these names. Actually, I want those puppies! This is the dangerous part of Puppy Bowl. By the time the half-time kittens come on, I'm convinced I need to adopt the entire starting line-up.

Who can really resist a face like these?

Well, besides curmudgeon-y St. Matt who says "Two puggles is more than enough."

Come on! The non-Peyton team won. Doesn't that mean I deserve a victory-pup?

All photos are courtesy of Animal Planet's website, and, if you missed it or need a puppy fix, here are some highlights of the "game":

*See, I'm showing restraint by not mentioning my compounded dislike of Indy because of Adam Vinitari. I also didn't mention the Oreo commercials.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Saint and Sensibility at the Austen Exhibit

Like many of the important things in my life, Jane Austen is something I learned from my sister. Unlike Lip Smackers, New Kids on the Block, and training bras, Austen is not something I've outgrown.

I stumbled on Austen accidentally; my sister's anthology of Jane was the thickest book on her bookshelf. I was at a middle school age when big books = better, so I smuggled it out of her room while she was at a cross country meet and probably would've have gotten away with reading and returning it… if I hadn't gushed how much I adored Jane Austen and Elizabeth Bennet and Oh-My-Darcy, in front of the owner of the book.

"Your sister is sense, and you, Tiffers, are pure sensibility," my father said with a laugh. This might be the most profound and truest statement he has ever uttered and I grilled him about it while we drove to the bookstore to purchase my own copies of the books. I hadn't gotten to Elinor and Marianne yet and was trying to determine if Dad was complimenting or insulting me.

Neither. He was stating a fact.

Another true fact, my sister may have recovered her anthology, but Austen was firmly entrenched in my life.

How disappointing it is, however, that The Jane has never been able to infiltrate St. Matt's heart. He's accepted that she pre-dates him in mine. He knows he'll have to see every film version of each of her novels. {Let's pause for a moment and offer a sigh to Mr. Colin Darcy-Firth} He even took the initiative and came to me when Becoming Jane arrived in our little town theater and asked, "So, 7:00 show or 9:00 show?"

Even proofreading each draft of my college thesis: Conjugal versus Consanguineal: Relationships in Austen* did nothing to spark an interest in his saintly heart. Finally, after I made him watch The Jane Austen Book Club and pointed out how Grigg was my very-most-favorite character and he was a boy and read Austen and wouldn't-he-at-least-try-reading-one, St. Matt relented. VICTORY! I must say, my pout was exceptionally adorable that day.

Not one to waste a moment, I scrambled for my copy of Northanger Abbey. "It's got danger and excitement and it's in this creepy gothic setting," I gushed as he nodded and got leashes to take the dogs out.

This would not do. He'd said he'd try reading Austen. I wanted him to try reading Austen now!

So, I waited inside the door with the book in my hand and as soon as it opened and the puggles-bounded in, I began: "No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine…"

I continued reading as he walked around the downstairs turning off all the lights, while he climbed upstairs, brushed his teeth, put on pajamas, and climbed into bed.

"One more chapter?"

He turned off the lights.

Yet, king among men that he is, he voluntarily spent Saturday squiring me to the Morgan Museum to see A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy .

I swooned and drooled over each of the display cases, pausing between contented sighs to admire a photograph of Mr. Colin Darcy-Firth, and staring open-mouthed at the drawings of Isabel Bishop who captured the characters exactly as they look in my head.

St. Matt patiently studied the drawing of her contemporaries and amused himself by trying to decipher Miss Austen's handwriting – he was disappointed to discover the first five lines he decoded were informing her sister, Cassandra, about a lovely piece of lace.

I left the exhibit all smiles and spinning. St. Matt left with a saintly grin.

"Now do you want to read her?" I asked, as I skipped out to the sidewalk.

St. Matt tugged me out of the path of speed-walking pedestrian and laughed. "No. Thank you, but no. Not at all."

But before my lip could quiver or fold downward into a pout, St. Matt had twirled me round and added, "But, that exhibit was not nearly as bad as I expected. I enjoyed it."

A girl can hope. And dream. And plot.

I'm sure St. Matt's already working on his counter-strategy. I may be sensibility, but he is sense, down the very logical core of his Austen-free heart.

*I think this was the title of my thesis. It was lost in The Great Un-Backed-Up Laptop Meltdown of 2005 and I have not gone back to Lehigh to search down the bound copy. Do they have a bound copy? *sobs*