Thursday, August 16, 2018

Back to School



My school is starting a week earlier than normal this year, which means summer was a week shorter. This seems like a hardship for many, including the people who like to get their work done without teachers in their faces all the time. I keep hearing, "As you know, we lost a week this year."

It might feel like we gain a week on the front side of next summer when we finish up in May. However, this fact doesn't help the people who are working their tails off to have things ready for next Tuesday when the children show up.

To kick things off, I bought a book called The Growth Mindset Coach, and we're going to focus on our first month's theme: Everyone can learn! I think we'll do a little writing about when we learned how to do something. I have an idea to write a little sample about learning how to teach. I'm learning all over again now, and I have to say it's pretty fun so far. I feel slightly sorry for my new teaching partner on whom I have to rely rather heavily. I'm trying to make up for that burden by exhibiting my sunny personality. I'm sure she appreciates it.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Summer Fail

Before I get into my fail, let's just put one major WIN on the table: I sent my massively revised novel back to my agent by my self-imposed deadline of today. There's hardly a scene that we haven't overhauled. I cut several characters and added one. I changed the sequence of events that leads to the ending. I gave one of the protagonists a family secret. I changed the genesis and substance of the conflict.

It's just a totally different book. I also think it's a better book. I really hope all of the stakeholders agree with this assessment.

So here's my funniest fail:

I arranged to meet a new friend at a coffee shop. It was my first time having coffee with this friend, and of course, I wanted her to find me charming and impressive. The coffee place was fancy, and I ordered a drink I'd never tried called "Golden Milk," which is high in turmeric and made with an oat-based dairy substitute.

Only someone evolved and sophisticated would order such a beverage.

When the barista called my name, I zipped right up to the counter and grabbed the nearest cup. I sipped it enthusiastically, certain the Golden Milk would be fantastic. But right away, I noticed the drink was an iced latte, not a Golden Milk. "No," I said, turning around. It was at that point I spotted a very sour-looking woman whose latte I'd just sampled.

"That was mine," she said, angry.

"I'm so sorry!" I said. "They called my name, and the drinks look the same!" She scowled at me as if I'd transgressed on purpose. I swear I did not! I babbled on about the mistake. The barista pointed out the drink that was actually mine and told the other woman she'd replace hers.

That latte lady was REALLY mad. Like, really. This coffee situation was a major setback for her.

At our table, my friend and I giggled. What else was there to do? We made jokes about how perhaps I thought the counter offered free samples, or that the Golden Milk came as part of a flight. The more we laughed, the angrier that latte lady became. I felt bad for her and definitely sorry, but my discomfort just made me laugh harder.

When she finally left with her non-contaminated drink, I waved and mouthed "I'm sorry," apologizing again. She did not reply. She rolled her eyes and scoffed. This made my friend and me laugh harder, which I'm sure annoyed her to no end.

I'm sorry, latte lady! I don't know what else to say.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Adventures in Word Count

I have nine days until I plan to hand in the full revision of my novel to my literary agency. I'm sure we'll go back and forth again at least one more time after that, as writers and editors are wont to do.
I'm hoping, however, that the changes going forward will be more minor in nature.

That's because this first guided revision is pretty much a rewrite. I've had ups and downs during the intense process, and I'll just be honest: I don't want to rewrite it again after this.

Still, overall, I'm going to give the last four months of work a positive review.

That's because I'm pretty happy with the manuscript in its newest iteration. That's not to say there haven't been some sad cuts. I'm sad to have cut, for instance, a classic line delivered to me by an actual parent in real life. It's the time someone told me her son "couldn't have cheated because he has too good a relationship with Jesus."

I liked that scene in the novel, but alas, the fictional person who says that iconic sentence is no longer a character in the book. The line will live forever in my memory instead of in fiction.

Another sad cut came down in the last 36 hours. It's Gratitude Buddies. This is something else from my real life. Remember that time I embarrassed myself at a meeting by laughing about gratitude buddies as a school-wide initiative?

I had some really funny gratitude texts flying around in the back half of the book. On careful inspection, however, I came to agree with my current editor that they don't really fit. They don't further the character development or the plot.

I cut them. But, it was kind of sad. I'm nearing the end of this rewrite/revision. I'm looking forward to the day it's done.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Montana Firsts

Maybe you already know about the Grand Prismatic Spring?

We're back from our Montana vacation. This is our third summer in a row venturing west. We did the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the Badlands and Black Hills, and now, the Rockies of Montana. These trips suit me. I like the hiking, the adventure, the ceaseless vistas.

I know I saw all this terrain and natural beauty as a young person, but it's all seemed new to me on these recent sojourns. Of course, I distinctly remember refusing to look up from my book as we crested many a snow-capped mountaintop in our family van. My own children similarly fail to take it all in. I can tell by the way they slap at each other in the back seat and made countless off-topic jokes about balls. In any case, we accumulated many "first" experiences and, I'm quite certain, precious family memories on this Montana trip. I'll provide a list of these "firsts" now:

  • First multi-mile family hike. We did the famed Beehive Basin hike in Big Sky, often referred to as one of the forty most beautiful hikes in the world. It was six miles long and stunning. At the outset of the hike, I was very clear about my expectations. "I plan to complete this hike," I said. And everyone complied with very little complaining. In fact, the children ran the final three miles, leaving Dan and me in the dust.
  • First whirlwind national park tour. We spent eight hours in Yellowstone. Obviously, we barely scratched the surface of this American treasure. We were awed by the amazing geothermic marvels and tried not to think about the supervolcano under it all that might end the world someday. 
  • First time in a broken down taxi. On the way home, our cab driver's miniature van emitted terrible sounds and then started smoking copiously from the hood. He dropped us off in the parking lot of a gas station, and we called an Uber to make the final leg of the journey. Good problem solving to end the vacation.
We're thinking Banff or Utah for next summer. More vistas, por favor.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Not My Job

You can see the river guide here is responsible for ten lives, including his own.

I've been whitewater rafting a few times in my life, and although I really enjoy this activity, I've been thinking about it and have come to an important realization: there are, I'm convinced, few jobs I'm less suited for than "River Guide."

Although I'm pretty outdoorsy, which seems to be a trait the river guides have in common, the truth is I do not understand paddling and/or levers. Perhaps I could be trained, and yes, I was a marginally competent canoeist at one point in my life. River guiding, however, requires a level of technical precision I might find hard to achieve. There are boulders and sharp turns and also, as my crew demonstrated yesterday, the people in the boats don't always heed river guides' paddling direction with accuracy and/or alacrity.

Another issue with river guiding is that most professionals live a nomadic lifestyle, sojourning from river to river in search of both sustenance and adventure. Mike, our guide on the Gallatin River yesterday, currently lives in the back of his Toyota Tundra and will do so for the next eight weeks.

I like camping and all, but living in a truck at this point? I'm not sure I'm up to it. I already wake up sore most days, and I don't even sleep on aluminum.

A third reason I'm not suited for river guiding is that river guides must be immediately ready to handle life-threatening emergencies. The truth is, I'm rather skittish in the face of danger. And, although I once-upon-a-time became a certified lifeguard, I'm not sure my swimming and rescue skills can stand up to class IV rapids. Or class III or class II rapids. Let's not even imagine foot entrapment or whirlpools.

As you can see, I've given this a great deal of thought. Although I appreciate the opportunity, I'm going to have to say no to river guiding.

Monday, June 25, 2018

X is the Best Place to Fall in Love

Once again, we're watching The Bachelorette, and once again, I'm losing brain cells at an alarming rate. In the current season, a lovely Minnesotan woman named Becca dates twenty-five marginal suitors. We just watched a date on which Becca and Colton rode camels and then soaked in a hot tub in the full sun of the Vegas desert.

Why would one do that on a date for fun? I didn't even see either of them apply proper sun protection.

At the end of the date, Colton said it was one of his best days--not dates, but DAYS--ever in his life. I'm sorry, but that can't be true. It was a hot tub in the middle of nowhere with camels roaming in the vicinity.

In other news, the summer's been cruising. There's a lot to do on each of the days, and I'm a little worried about accomplishing all the things on all of my lists. Luckily, I totally mastered today's to-dos, including eating at a delicious vegan restaurant called J. Selby's. I had street tacos with soy chorizo, and Lee had a meatless hot dog that looked as if it were made of meat. Lee's visiting! Isn't that great?!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Summer Task Lists

Here I am finishing the hardest 5k I've ever run.

We're finishing the first week of summer vacation. Actually, I'm just thinking of it as "summer, "and not as "vacation." Last year, when I reframed the whole June-July-and August phenomenon as not time-off, but rather the start of my other jobs, I just felt much happier. I wasn't expecting to be luxuriating and feeling relaxed all the time.

Indeed, I'm not living a life of leisure over here. Instead, I'm being a novelist and a full-time parent and studying for my new job. All of these are time-consuming endeavors, but also a lovely change of pace from my normal 9-5. Or 6:30-5, as the case may be.

I've got a daily task list. It includes laundry and clutter clearing. And, most importantly, I've got butt-in-the-chair time to make progress on the book. The comprehensive revisions are due to my agent by August 6th. I'm excising two characters and adding one. I'm writing more internal thinking. I'm reworking the conflict. To be honest, it feels less like revision and more like re-writing, but so far, I think the changes are making the book more and better than it was before.

In addition, I've got running on the calendar. I joined a running team to celebrate my 40th birthday. I was lured by the possibility of scoring points for the team now that I'm old. Sure enough, I ran an extremely hard 5k last Wednesday. It was the slowest 5k I've ever run, and yet, I finished 2nd in the Women's Masters division. That's a point-scoring position! Yay for 40!

Let's do this, summer. I'm ready for you.