Monday, December 6, 2010

oliver jeffers - a writer's dream illustrator

I can't get enough of author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers. He is just the coolest ever. I'd die to have him illustrate one of my books - one can dream, no?

Check out what he is doing with ebooks. This is seriously making me rethink that paper books are the only option in terms of publishing picture books:

...also...check out some of the other things that he is doing here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

untouched ideas

On December 26th, 2004 there was a magnitude 9.1 earthquake that struck the Indian Ocean. A massive tsunami resulted killing thousands of people. You remember the scenes on television. People trying to outrun the wave, climbing on top of buildings and up into trees, anything to get out of the way. It was terrible, yet I couldn't tear myself away from those images. But out of all of those horrible scenes, I recall seeing one story that was so touching it was heartbreaking. The second I saw it I ran for my writing journal, outlined a synopsis and told myself this is the type of story, taken from true life, that adults and children will all be able to relate to.

Hippo & Tortoise - that's what I initially named it. Owen & Mzee: The True Story Of A Remarkable Friendship (Scholastic Press, 2006), is what someone else named it. Yes, the story of the baby hippo, orphaned and displaced by the tsunami, only to find friendship in a 130 year-old giant tortoise, was apparently a story that caught the eye of a six-year-old at the time as well. She persuaded her father to write Owen & Mzee, while my version, Hippo & Tortoise, sat untouched in my black and white notebook - where hundreds of others stories still sit, untouched.
It's not always easy to write out a fully-fleshed story just as the moment strikes you, and there's not always time. But I think I'm learning that I've got to at least try - especially when it comes to picture books. Although, as I say that I realize that picture books are sometimes harder to get right than a 200-page novel. I guess the tale of Hippo & Tortoise wasn't to be mine. And I can accept that. I won't be able to accept it if happens again and again. So I'm breaking out old journals and half-started stories and trying to get things done. Like spring cleaning in the fall, if you will. So far I've completed one and sent it out. We'll see how far I get....

Friday, October 22, 2010

some days I miss nyc

Some days I get a slight tingle in my gut and a twist in my heart and I start missing New York City. Some nights I have dreams that I still live there in my tiny, shoebox West Village apartment, and I wake up feeling confused and sad. Where are the taxis blowing their horns, the rumble of the subway under the streets, the cool breeze drifting off the Hudson River? The quiet of the museums and the serenity of Central Park? I miss those things some days. That's when I break out old photos and reminisce.

I found these photos in an old email from my dad, known as photo pops here. I used to work down the street from Bryant Park. In the summers I'd take my lunch and sit out at one of the tables - if I was lucky to find an empty table - and I'd read a book or write my book on the huge, 50 pound laptop that I used to lug to work every day. I never could get over the reflection coming off the glass building across the street from the park on 42nd Street. I mentioned it once to my dad who was visiting and he took a picture. Instantly it became a favorite.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

bicycle mishap

Lately, I've been borrowing my sister's bike to ride to work, but on Sunday I discovered that riding a man's bike is not really working out for me. Newsflash: skirts + men's bike frame = predictable mishap.

I may have almost had my skirt wrapped over the bike seat whilst my leg was in the air which almost brought me and the bike down to the pavement in a slightly embarrassing tumble while tourists and other passerby were strolling down a busy street. I may have almost had that happen to me. So I've been shopping around for a proper ladies bike, if you will, which should help keep me from developing some sort of reputation around the small town where I live.

These are the bikes that I've got my eye on.

I must admit, this red bike is probably more my style. The handlebars look more comfortable and you can't really go wrong with red, right? Next up, I'll need to get me some lights and a fancy basket or two for carrying Sadie and perhaps some wine...who am I kidding... definitely some wine.

Monday, October 11, 2010

silence and chapter - ugh - one

Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins

It's happening again. I'm editing Chapter One of my book Trevelyn's Shimmer. Yes. I know, I know. I'm insane. But it had to happen! I changed the age of my main character, Marie. In one morning she graduated from fifth-grade to sixth and Landon, the curious/popular boy who occasionally makes fun of her but also sticks up for her at the same time, has moved from fifth to seventh-grade. Thanks writing buddy for your suggestions (FYI-she's as bad as me).

So that is what I have been working on. I finally got all the way to chapter fourteen with revisions, only to go back to the start - the dreaded chapter one. Since then it's been three weeks, three weeks of stop and go, stop and go, and too many cups of Trader Joe's Duchess Gray tea while I mold chapters one and two into something decent - hopefully decent.

Sadie and I have also moved again to a region known for producing wine, lots and lots of wine. And I've taken a job that involves pouring lots and lots of wine. I'm also involved with the general public in more ways than anyone ever really wants to be, but this has given me lots of material for characters and future books. Thank you general public for being so entertaining.

Nothing else of much interest has been going on except, oh, well except that I was excited to hear that J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit is going forward with production to be made into a movie. And, on an even more exciting note, I have taken to tweeting over on Twitter. Who knew a whole world of informative 150 word tweets could be so interesting and time-consuming? But they are, and that is just one more excuse for me not to have posted anything new on my blog for almost one month.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to go upstairs and chain myself to my desk so that I actually finish writing this darn book! Two months to go until the Delacorte writing contest people! Writing buddy and I promised each other that we'd make it happen. Finishing our manuscripts to enter that contest, that is, and maybe, just maybe...winning.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

president obama - children's book author

Publisher's Weekly reports that President Obama has written a children's book due out this November. The book is called of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters (Knopf Books for Young Readers). A tribute to Americans like Georgia O'Keefe and George Washington, it celebrates the "characteristics that unite all Americans." Obama wrote the book before he became president. Obama has made a fortune in other books he's penned, but the proceeds for this book are going to a scholarship for children with parents affected by the war who have served our country.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I remember

In 1999 I went to New York City for the first time. And I fell in love. Fast. There for one week with a group of other fashion students from San Francisco, we toured the city, took the subways, ate dirty-water dogs, shopped and wandered throughout Central Park. I had just turned 21-years-old and the bar scene was like nothing I'd ever seen before. Nothing there was like anything I'd ever seen. Instantly I knew that I would be coming back again one day soon.

The next year, 2000, my gut was right when my boyfriend at the time was asked to go to New York on a business trip. I lucked out when his office purchased two tickets, one of them for me. Again, from the moment I set foot in the city I was infatuated, despite the pint-size hotel rooms and tricky accommodations that later worked out. That was also the summer of my first and only visit to the World Trade Center. Getting to the top of the Trade Center to see the views was on our tourist to-do list. We bought our tickets, waited in line for the elevator and zipped up to the top as the tour guide explained how the system worked. I can't remember what she said because I was too fascinated at how fast we were traveling...and how high. The doors slide open and out we stepped to the amazing, dizzying views of Manhattan. I will never forget the woozy feeling that erupted in my stomach. A feeling like I had to hold onto something or I would fall. I remember glass windows stretched sky high. You could go outside, too. My boyfriend took some convincing, he was having major vertigo and already looked a little pale. Eventually he succumbed, and I took him by the hand, leading him up an escalator, as I remember it, to an area outside lined with high metal fences. The wind was almost deafening. The feeling like you were floating in space, stronger. My boyfriend clutched the interior walls shaking his head that he wasn't going any farther, no matter what I said. I braved walking as close to the edge as I could, telling myself that I would not fall, I would not fall over. After a couple of minutes, when my boyfriend was looking like he was about to cry, we left. Down in the street, we both breathed a sigh of relief. And I remember how we said the feeling of being up so high was strange, so strange.

One year later, September 8th, 2001, I packed up two suitcases, all the money I had - $800 dollars - and moved to Manhattan where I had no job and knew only one person, my old friend from high school. Newly single for the first time in six years, I was now 23-years-old and ready to take on New York. Storm the fashion industry. Things didn't happen like I planned. The jet lag hit me hard and with the three-hour time difference I slept in late. None of my things had arrived - via UPS from California - and they wouldn't arrive for close to two more weeks. They would remain stuck in New Jersey in a holding warehouse.

The morning of September 11th, 2001, I woke up around 11am, groggy but excited about the day. Still not believing that I actually lived in New York. We didn't have a television yet in our small railroad apartment. So I turned on my roommate's clock radio. A man with a solemn voice was talking about how two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. I thought I was listening to an AM radio station where some writer was reading his twisted short story. It made me feel sick to my stomach. I honestly did not believe that what I was hearing was real. So I tied on my sneakers and went outside. The streets were eerie and filled with sirens, even as high up as East 83rd Street. I walked 1 1/2 blocks to the East River and stuck my head out. There it was. A huge white cloud billowing out of lower Manhattan, blowing east. Other people were lined up along the river. All of us holding tightly onto the black rail that bordered the water. All of our heads were turned south, observing the catastrophic cloud. Who knows what it carried with it.

The phone lines were jammed and I had just ridden myself of the burden and cost of a cell phone one week before I moved. Our house phone wasn't installed yet. The only option was the pay phone on York Avenue. I called home and every number that I could remember. I got nothing but a busy signal. My family and friends in California, being unfamiliar with the size and streets of Manhattan, had no idea where I was in relation to the World Trade Center, which was thankfully, quite far away. I think it was my cousin Hope, who had just moved out of NYC two weeks prior, that I reached first. Later that night, I finally got through to my parents. The sense of relief in my mother's voice was palpable. I wondered what she would say? If she would tell me to move back to California? But she didn't. She told me what our president later told our nation. Don't let terrorists and fear make your decisions for you. She also told me that bad things can happen anywhere. You have to live your life. Don't stop living your life.

Later that day, when I was getting too anxious to be alone, my roommate's friend Melissa, who I had never met before, never even spoken to, came over to keep me company. It's funny how fast you connect with people when something catastrophic happens. Her befriending me then was just a small example of how New Yorkers came together. Melissa and I sat on the stoop outside my apartment building and smoked cigarettes. Cigarettes didn't do anything to calm our nerves. But we needed something. I never knew what "normal" was in a city that size, especially having only lived there for three days. But people were like zombies dragging themselves around. Everyone wearing the same lost, numb expression. Sirens filled the streets. I remember seeing firetrucks covered in dust zipping down the avenues. Sirens and news announcers discussed what had happened. That was what I heard for days and days and days. Big trucks with loads of debris from ground zero drove north past my neighborhood, bringing the wreckage and who knows what else somewhere out of the city. A few days later, the smell finally made its way to the Upper East Side. The smell was a fresh reminder of what had happened. And it was strong. Even in mid-town the smell of burnt metal and paper and bodies was unbearably strong.

If I remember correctly, another three or four weeks passed before they started letting the general public back down into lower Manhattan. I visited once, a first date with a boy I had recently met, actually. Mounds of debris were still there. Fences wrapped around the hole in the ground. The sense of sadness was heartbreaking. Hands holding tissue were pressed to eyes and noses. Sniffles and then silence. Thousands of missing pictures of lost loved ones hung from the fences. And candles burned next to flowers and stuffed animals.

After that, firemen and police officers were revered. Before 9/11, I'd personally never given much thought to the jobs that they did. Now, I will never look at them the same. Every time I passed a fire station, the faces of those lost, hung on the walls, were looking back at me. Just to say thank you will never be enough.

Every year on the anniversary of 9-11, two blue beams of light pierce the sky where the towers stood. The first year I saw them, I imagined the souls of the dead captured in the beams, looking down on everyone, on a city full of people who came together to remember them. We will never forget. I will always remember.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Delacorte Press 29th Annual Contest for a First Young Adult Novel

There's nothing like a goal to get your butt in gear - or planted in a chair - like the goal to finish writing a book....

"August. By August my book will be done!" I proclaimed, back in June.
"August 1st isn't that far away," my friend commented. "You'll really have it done by then?"
I could hear the doubt in her voice. "The end of August!" I countered. "I never said August 1st...."

Well, August 31st has come and gone my friends, and I still haven't finished the final revisions on my middle-grade, sci-fi novel, Trevelyn's Shimmer. Ugh! Why is it so damn hard to just sit down and finish? Why did Suzanne Collins have to distract me for weeks with reading The Hunger Games series?! Why is it more fun to Facebook and Twitter!? Excuses, excuses.

But excuses no more. Because now I have a goal. December 31st - no, not the 1st - you have until the 31st. And that is when I will be entering my novel for consideration in the Delacorte Press 29th Annual Contest for a First Young Adult Novel. Yes, you heard it here first. I am going to enter. I probably won't win, but that's okay. I will finish my book and move on to the next one so that I can torture myself with new deadlines. And won't that be nice, for a change.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

what kids want - blood, guts and gore... and a bit a'romance

(Mockingjay. Scholastic, 2010)

Enough is never enough. And just when you think it's enough, you need more. That's what I learned yesterday listening to a group of eighth-graders talk about Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games trilogy. My writing buddy and I, both of us quite older than the small group gathered around a long, wood desk in the back of Borders, took our seats 15 minutes into the discussion. Yeah, we got some funny looks from the kids seated at the table like, "what are these ladies doing here?" but after we all united in our dorky love of sci-fi/fantasy, a bond was formed. And I learned what these kids liked about the book. Three things: Blood, action and romance.

"Guts and gore, I like guts, blood and gore more than anything," one girl said.
"But the book has to have romance, too," two other girls stated.
"I don't really need any of that romance stuff," said the first girl, turning up her nose. "Just give me blood, guts and gore."
"I don't mind a little romance," said the one boy at the end of the table.

Well all right then. Duly noted. And The Hunger Games trilogy delivered all of these things. Blood, action and romance. Funnily enough, the trilogy is meant for the young-adult crowd (14-18 yrs.), but, of course, kids love reading above their age level. Kind of like with anything, if you think about it. A 12-year-old is desirous of her 16-year-old sister who's allowed to wear make-up and date boys. A 14-year-old boy is envious of his 18-year-old brother's license and shiny Mustang, etc. We all want to do something we're not legally allowed to do before we're allowed to do it. Anyone ever want to drink a beer before you turned 21? Be honest. That's desire. Well, the same goes for books. Kids want to read above their age.

But there's a lot of blood, guts and gore - as the first girl said she loved so much - in The Hunger Games series. The kids at Borders yesterday were clearly big sci-fi/fantasy fans, so they tend to like things like this because they can, I think anyway, compartmentalize the killing of people. That is to say, that because the books take place in the future, post-apocalyptic future, they can - and this is just my opinion - set aside, or accept, if you will, the murder, basically, of innocent children because it takes place in a world that does not really exist. For those of you who have not read the series, The Hunger Games takes place, as I've said, in post-apocalyptic America. A Capitol arises out of the ashes, as do 13 Districts who are forced to do the labor and produce goods for the people in the Capitol. When District 13 rebels, they are destroyed. After that, the Capitol reminds the remaining 12 Districts who is in charge and how vulnerable they all are by sending one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to something called The Hunger Games. An arena, eliciting similarities to the Romans' Gladiator era, is constructed, and the 24 children are placed within its confines to a match with the goal to kill one another. The last one standing is the victor who is given a "cushy" life back home where most people live on the brink of starvation. Yeah, heavy. And filled with tension, which Donald Maass will tell you in The Fire in Fiction (Writer's Digest Books, 2009), is what makes a book tick.

A voice went off in my head listening to these kids talk. And believe me, I asked them lots of questions. The voice said, you'd better step it up with your book Trevelyn's Shimmer. You'd better make your main character sweat it out. Push her to the edge and then save her at the last minute. But then I think - is that selling out? My book is only for middle-grade readers, not YA. Would that be taking it too far? What is too far nowadays? Are we so over the top in this age that we have to see someone practically killed in order to get our attention? Think medieval torture devices. In The Hunger Games, the actual games themselves are filmed and the people in all of the Districts are forced to watch. Forced to watch their children die. While the people in the Capitol look at the games as a form of entertainment - a futuristic, reality video game.

"Do you guys think that some of our own reality t.v. shows of late have gone too far? Have showed things that are too violent?" asked the Borders employee MC-ing the discussion.
"I think some of the shows on t.v. like Survivor, where people are almost starving, sometimes goes too far," said one girl.
"Is Hunger Games any different from when gladiators were forced to fight to the death in an arena for others' entertainment?" asked the MC.
"But those were different times and they weren't children," answered one of the girls wearing a headband.

This got me thinking. Are we turning a corner? Is society bending back to its old ways when we watched people get killed for our own enjoyment? What about all of the video games out there where people are getting killed? Okay, they are just video games. But are the growing outbreaks of violence in schools somehow related? Does this desensitize us? It seems very likely. And how do we know that those gladiators back in ancient Greece weren't kids? People didn't live to the ripe old age that they do now. I bet they were only kids, at least for today's standards. They lived much harder lives then. People still do, in many parts of the world.

I have to admit that I fully enjoyed reading The Hunger Games trilogy. It's true. Blood, action and romance definitely drives a novel forward. A number of parallelisms from real life can be drawn. I'm no expert on anything. But the similarities are pretty clear. Propaganda and Vietnam. Nazi propaganda. Differences in class, race and discrimination. Get on the bandwagon and think like people in power tell you to think! That's essentially what takes place for a number of years during the course of the timeline in The Hunger Games books. The carefree people who live in the Capitol, who have everything easily accessible to them, are fed detestable lies about the poor people living in the 12 Districts. And likewise, the Districts are taught to sit and speak when they are commanded, beaten into submission, into believing that they have no choice other than to do what they are told.

But I'm getting a little off track. And I have not yet read the last book so I'm not sure how it all ends. I have heard, though, that there is lots of violence in the final installment. Lots of blood, guts and gore. So is that what it takes these days to sell a book? Is that what it takes to become a successful author? What are the three most famous/popular/media-happy series for kids/young-adults that you can think of which have been published in the last ten years? Here is my list:
That's my list. Yours might be different. Although, I think Harry Potter might be unanimous.

So, if you've read all of the series above, what do they have in common? Violence and fantasy? That's what I'm thinking. What else? Romance? Action?

Yes. This leads me back to what I wrote at the beginning of this really, definitely too long post....which hopefully you're still reading. Blood, action and romance. That seems to be what the human psyche is drawn to. Is that innate? Entertaining? Love and violence seem to go hand-in-hand, yes? And the violence can't really happen without the action. That's a given.

So other than my point that a novel seems to need to have blood, action and romance to capture the YA and younger audience. I advise newbie, and established writers alike, to get out there and attend seminars at your local bookstores to hear what kids are really saying. Granted, I was only with a small minority of the juvenile population yesterday, but the message was clear. Sometimes the guidelines/industry standards that writers are given to follow, are not always what kids want to read.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

r.i.p happy hagar

My poor sister had to put her dog Happy down today. Happy just made it to her 14th birthday on Sunday. She'd been ill on and off for the last few months, and really ill for the last couple of weeks.
Happy and Amanda

Happy and Sadie last August celebrating their birthdays at the river

Happy trying to squeeze into Sadie's bed

I'll never forget when my sister came home from college to visit one summer with her new pup in tow. Happy was the cutest puppy ever. Her face was all black then. I chased her around the backyard and gave her tons of kisses. She was the sweetest thing.

Happy is with the angels now

Happy's favorite thing in the world to do was to visit the river. She'd bury her face in the water and dig up rocks from the riverbed. She'd chase rocks too. She never exactly came back with the same rock that was thrown, but that didn't matter. Happy the river dog. I like to think that that's where she is now. Playing in the water and chasing rocks.

Monday, August 9, 2010

photo pops in paris

Wow, I've been slacking in the blog department. But I have some nice pictures from photo pops' recent trip to Paris, France to make up for it.

Cops on skates! or police sur les patins! Yep, this is how they do it in Paris.

I've stood outside the Eiffel Tower. I've taken pictures of it, too. But standing in line and working my way up to the top has never seemed very appealing. Not that I doubt the views aren't breathtaking. It's the line. And all of the people. And the waiting. And more waiting. I need some pull on the Eiffel Tower so I can quickly get to the top.

Did he paint these pictures? Or is he simply selling them? I'd like to get to the bottom of this. What made him use pink as his primary color? Does the Eiffel Tower remind him of a beautiful woman? Was it a warm day? I really love this picture - the one my dad took, that is.

One day I'll go back to Paris and I'll find the patience to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The view from the base up was beautiful. The top down must be amazing....

(All photos property of Richard Hagar. Any unauthorized use is prohibited and illegal).

Friday, July 9, 2010

gimme shelter jaclyn mednicov

Vacancy by Jaclyn Mednicov

If you happen to be in New York City anywhere from July 15th til August 20th, then pop on over to the group show Gimme Shelter at Mixed Greens in Chelsea. My good friend, Jaclyn Mednicov, is one of the featured artists. I've seen Jaclyn's art go from good to really, really great over the years - I own several of her paintings myself - and I continue to be impressed by what she produces.

Here's a blurb from the press release: "Mixed Greens is excited to present the group exhibition Gimme Shelter. While shelter is traditionally defined as a structure that provides protection, these seventeen artists present a more complex, multifaceted understanding of the concept. More specifically, the works in this show investigate the delicate balance of perception: whether a space is inviting or uninhabitable, comforting or crumbling, being constructed or consumed.... Many other artists represent structures as having fallen out of use or ceasing to exist. Jaclyn Mednicov’s deserted landscapes, Nicholas Johnston’s ice caves, and Eric Heist’s renderings of post-Katrina New Orleans capture sites that 'once were'..." Read more about Gimme Shelter here.

I remember when Jaclyn and I were just wee-ones living in New York City, trying to navigate through the crowded streets, and equally packed and stinky subway trains. We always talked about what it would be like if Jaclyn were to ever have a show in the Chelsea district...ahhh, memories. Well, Jaclyn has stuck it out and her resume is the proof. I don't think anyone can predict where life will take them, but I think that Jaclyn's 20-something self would be impressed with the artist she's become today.

Since I can't be in NYC to see the show in person, if anyone makes it over there I'd love to hear what you think...

Mixed Greens is located at 531 W 26th Street/ 1st Floor, NYC 10001

Thursday, July 8, 2010

the author's world becomes real...or as close as can be

If I were a kid today I would totally be begging my mom to go to Literary Camp. How come they didn't have stuff like this when I was 11?! When we were kids, my sister and I were busy playing dorky spy games around our backyard, ducking behind bushes hiding from the neighbor mowing his lawn on a summer Saturday, and practicing karate rolls, but now kids can actually go to a camp where having a rather large imagination that one is an actual warrior is accepted and cool. Plus, they get to learn real archery, camouflage, covert movement, and tracking, among other rad things - yes, I said rad. Based on John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series, BookPeople set up camp in Austin, Texas, where 75 lucky kids between the ages of 9 and 14 got to spend five days learning the skills that Flanagan's characters learn in his books. Other literary camps have been based on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series (think Lightning Thief) and Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi's Spiderwick books. (side note, I saw Holly Black speak at Books of Wonder in NYC a few years ago, before I knew who she was. She was awesome!)

a bad guy at Ranger's camp, no doubt

A letter written to the literary campers by John Flanagan in the voice of Will Treaty, a fictional character at the camp, states that the apprentices "...will learn the secrets of putting an arrow exactly where you want it in the target..." and " blend into the background so that nobody can see you." They also are told that they will learn "...other important things like loyalty to your friends and companions, like respect for your instructors, like honesty, and perseverance when things seem a little tough."

learning the mad skills from the dude with the breast-plate, ya'll

It seems like more of these literary camps will be popping up over different locations all over the nation, which makes me happy to know that kids are reading books and their imaginations are coming alive. After all, picturing the world that the author creates really is one of the best parts of reading.

only learning the skills of how to be stealth could get kids to sit at such strict attention

Monday, July 5, 2010

photo pops and doggie-in-a-bag series

Happy belated fourth everyone! I hope it was a good one. I spent the weekend up in wine country gallivanting around with my girlfriends, drinking pinot noir and eating lots and lots of Mexican food. I'm ready to tie on my running shoes and hit the pavement, but maybe I'll just relax for one more day...

So photo pops was in Europe recently and it seems that he's taken a liking to photographing dogs. Maybe his granddogger Sadie has inspired him (my sister told me not to tell people that I use words like granddogger and dogger, but I think it's clever), or maybe there were just lots of people in Paris who carried their little dogs around in bags and my dad thought it was funny - after all, you don't see much of that in Colorado. Sadie and I would fit in well in Paris, except that I don't really speak French, I do know how to ask for a glass of red wine though. Anyway, while I eagerly await photo pops' photographs of the Matterhorn in Switzerland, I wanted to post a couple of pics from what I like to call "The Doggie-in-a-bag Series".....

notice the Sadie-but-smaller lookalike...

yes, lots of Terriers in Paris. I tried putting Sadie in my bag like this once, I almost threw out my shoulder.

(All photos property of Richard Hagar. Any unauthorized use is prohibited and illegal).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

what do dirty little secrets, sea and cupcakes have in common? this...

C.J. Omololu (left) & Heidi R. Kling (right)

Young Adult authors Cynthia J. Omololu (Dirty Little Secrets; Walker Books, 2010) and Heidi R. Kling (Sea; Putnam, 2010) might want to consider doing presentations together more often. These two ladies made a marvelous team at a recent SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) event that took place yesterday in Walnut Creek, California.

There really is nothing like being around the like-minded sentimentality of other children's book writers. Something in the air changes, something makes sense as one writer discusses her manuscript pitfalls or triumphs with another head-bobbing scribe, or when someone sings the praises of the latest How To Be A Better Writer life-changing book. This shift, from the ordinary world to the world of congenial peers, couldn't have been more evident than when these two ladies, perched behind big rectangular tables with their books on display, uncloaked the tales of their journeys into becoming published writers.

C.J. Omololu began the discussion saying that she fell into writing accidentally. At the tender age of 7 she penned her first manuscript, but it took her many more years and several more stories - like close to 30 - before she was finally able to sell her words. Now her second book, Dirty Little Secrets - about a 16-year old girl who lives with the secret that her mother is a hoarder, and must make a critical decision to call 911 or keep a new terrible secret to herself after discovering her mother's body inside their crowded house - has been getting great reviews since its debut. My favorite part of C.J.'s story was how she serendipitously met her agent, Erin Murphy. "I researched an agent on Verla Kay and found Erin Murphy, who didn't take queries except if she met you through someone or at a conference." Turns out Erin Murphy was going to be at an upcoming conference in Kansas City, Missouri, so guess where C.J. went. Agent and writer had a freak encounter in an elevator at the hotel where the conference was being held, but C.J. says she blew her chance when all she could discuss was pleasantries and not her in-progress book. No matter though, because back at home she composed a self-described "ballsy query letter" which she shared with us, and sent it off before her novel was completely done - something she says to never, ever do! Her dream agent loved her query, signed her, but they had a difficult time with selling her first book. Eventually the idea of hoarders came along, also quite serendipitously, while reading an article in a gossip magazine, and with that C.J. was on her way.

Now, something I have to point out were the groans and sighs of familiar frustration as C.J. described how when she first started writing seriously, she was going to storm the market of children's books! - pause to look dreamily into the sky. I'm fairly certain that all beginning, hopeful writers think that they're going to nail their first book, land the first agent they query, secure a six-figure advance and a three book contract, and sit at signings with hoards of screaming, young fans begging for their autograph. Yeah, this typically isn't how it works. You're lucky if you can get an agent, land a $5,000 advance and get your own family members to attend your signings. But, like anything worthwhile, writing a good book takes time, and many, many, many tries - for most.

Next, jubilant, easy going Heidi spoke about her debut novel, Sea. Taking inspiration from the pages of journals her husband wrote while working on humanitarian efforts in Indonesia after the catastrophic 2004 tsunami, Sea is the tale of a young girl who reluctantly travels to the disaster-ridden place to aid her father in his own volunteer efforts, and discovers love and the truth about her mother's mysterious disappearance three years before. Heidi's road to published writer was speckled with writing musical theatre, protesting the potential loss of the creative writing major at UC Santa Cruz, where she attended college, moving to New York City and earning a writing degree from the New School, and naively passing on the opportunity to ghost write books as offered by an editor at a major publishing house while in NYC. She eventually learned more about the publishing industry, joined a critique group with the likes of Nancy Farmer (not bad) and after participating in a "speed-dating" for agents event back in San Francisco, was presented with three requests from different agents for her book also before she'd had it done. Like C.J., another no-no they say in the timeline of finding representation for your novel. Eventually, Sara Crowe became Heidi's agent. Heidi says she literally stood on her back deck and screamed when she got the call.

Main points the two authors said to take from their experience:
1) Do your research before submitting to an agent. Don't submit blindly.
2) Surround yourself with other writers.
3) Don't expect to sell your first book, or for that matter, your second or your third.
4) Pay attention to the reactions of people when reading your book. If they're yawning or spacing out, looking bored, then you may be working on the wrong project.

I would be remiss not to mention that both ladies sang the praises of Twitter. C.J. was admittedly anti-Twitter at first, but once she got into it, and got a tweet back from YA super-author, John Green - squeals of delight - she was certain its benefits outweighed anything negative. And Heidi is the "queen of connections." Getting herself on the radar had fellow Tweeters changing their profile photo to the cover of her book, and generating pre-press buzz.

There was a short break to pause for cupcakes to celebrate another SCBWI member's birthday, and that's when I stole over to snap the photo at the top of this post. A Q & A section followed (but this post is getting too long so perhaps I'll mention more on that another time) and then the event was over.

I don't always make it to every local SCBWI event, not all of them appeal to what I'm working on - but I'm really glad that I attended this one. Not only were C.J. and Heidi gracious, funny and forthcoming, but I gained more insight into the mystical world of what it would be like to be a paid, published writer. Oh, and for future projects, both ladies are working on YA paranormal romances, moving away from the seriousness of their last books.

As for me, I'll tell you what's next on my to-do list: reading Dirty Little Secrets and Sea, and getting myself an account on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

mr. so-and-so said so - computers are gonna be big

Bert and Ernie (trust me, this will make sense in a minute)

No one would ever confuse me for being a tech-savvy snob. The highlight of my formative computer using years, came in fourth-grade when Mr. So-and-So - I forget his real name - the dreaded, older, only male teacher in my school - brought computers into our classroom in Irvine, California, where my family was living at the time. He told us those big white boxes with yellow, block letters and black screens would be the wave of the future. Mr. So-and-So had to beg the school to purchase computers for our classroom. We were the very first class to use them! No other teacher in the school wanted such silly things. We were lucky, said Mr. So-and-So. We were getting a leg up on the rest of our grade. Those other kids who got the new, nice, sweet, pretty teacher, Mrs. Kennedy, were going to be sorry Sally's that they didn't get computer time! We'd show them! They'd be stuck pumping gas while we were living the life in Palm Springs, all because we got to use computers. That's what he said to a group of scraggly fourth-graders rolling their eyes.

Well, turns out Mr. So-and-So, for all of his evil ways, was right. And the best I've ever been, and probably will ever be, at computers, was in that class when I ardently typed the letters falling from the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen, faster than they traveled. The golden years of computers for me - it's never been as good since.

Now, flash-forward to 2010, there are so many applications and reading thingamabobs like iPoodles, Kinkles and Nookies, that I can't keep up! But I think I got it! I think I finally got it when I read a recent article called MeeGenius!: A New Outlet for Picture Book Authors and Illustrators written by Alice Pope (who keeps a well known children's book writers blog here) in the May/June 2010 SCBWI Bulletin.

The MeeGenius! tag line is - Have you ever thought about having your books published on the iPad, iPhone and the web? Why wait to sell your books through a traditional publisher? Go digital today with MeeGenius! and become one of our noteworthy authors, distributing your books immediately to an international audience.

That said, the MeeGenius! people won't take just any joe-schmo writer or illustrator. According to Pope's article, they "plan to employ a MeeGenius! editor to monitor the quality of submissions." They don't want to be a YouTube for picture books. And the co-founder, David Park, says, "We think of ourselves as more of an Etsy type of company. We want to have really high-quality content on the site." Oooh, I love Etsy - this equals good stuff people.

Right now, if you go to the MeeGenius! site, you can view and read a couple dozen picture books for free. Mostly the classics like Jack and Jill, Cinderella, Goldilocks and The Three Bears, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf. And what's super cool, is that you can personalize each book so that Goldilocks becomes Samantha, and the baby bear becomes Sadie. Yes, I personalized GL and her three bear friends. I had to try it out! It was actually really fun and easy. And you know that if I get it then a four year-old definitely will. What's more? There's a read-along voice and each word is highlighted as it's spoken - a couple of the key items that parents told MeeGenius! creators they wanted.

The E-books are sold through the iTunes store and the web, and according to Pope's SCBWI article, MeeGenius! is still working out the kinks in terms of their author/illustrator payouts and pricing models for the E-books, but ultimately it will be left up to the audience to see what the people are willing to pay.

One more thing, MeeGenius! is enabling a "dating service" they say, to connect illustrators with authors. Who knows, they could produce the next Sonny and Cher, Bert and Ernie, Han and Chewbacca, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Ross and Rachel - I could go on - of children's book creators.

I hate to say he was right, but if he's still alive and somewhere out there tormenting a fresh batch of kids, Mr. So-and-So's probably awfully proud of himself for guessing that computers were gonna be a big thing.

Sonny and Cher

Han Solo and Chewbacca

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

x-city girl rescues a baby bird

Time to ease the vibe a bit, if possible, in regards to yesterday's unfortunate discovery and post. May I just say that I am very sorry to hear what happened concerning the recent story in Texas, and that my thoughts are with the family and friends.

Maybe seeing this little guy will bring a smile to an otherwise sad face...

I found this baby bird - who I named Willie - on my run this morning. I reversed my route and went up a road that I normally end my run with, and out of the corner of my eye spotted something fluffy hoping along the curb in the street. At first I thought it was a ginormous bumble bee - I do wear glasses - then I discovered that it was a little bird. Willie tried to run away from me, but eventually I scooped him up. His nest was nowhere that I could see. The only tree was a tall Oak, which I was not about to climb. Some sort of animal was lurking in the bushes nearby, so either poor little Willie was gonna become road kill, or a neighborhood cat's tasty treat.

Nobody really answers their doorbell anymore, do they? Then again, no one was really around at that hour. So with that, I cupped little Willie in my hands and we started the walk home. Luckily I had only gone about a mile when I found Willie - it would've been a much longer morning had I found him somewhere in the middle of my run, around mile three... Before long, Willie's soft chirps quieted down and his shaking stopped as he settled into my palm. I should mention, by the way, that I got some pretty amused looks from the two or three passerby. With my hands cupped out in front of my waist, I must've looked like some meditative-Buddhist-practicing walker. On top of that, a damn fly kept landing on my hand and then on my ear and then back on my hand, and since I couldn't swat him away I jerked my head from side-to side and blew on my wrist like some crazy, half-possessed lady!

Anyway, back at home, Willie was given the royal treatment - that's how we roll at La Casa de Hagar of animals. Perched in a soft pink blanket inside of a shoe box, Willie snuggled up while I researched where I could take him. Lindsay Wildlife Museum turned out to be the place. They have a whole web page on what to do if you should happen to find a wild animal, like I did. Of course, if you're a mile from home with no cell phone and no one around, it's hard to know how to's not like these things occur everyday.

What happened next? Well, Willie was given a bath and he will be nursed until he is strong and ready to be placed back where I found least that's what I think. I'll find out more in a couple days when I call over there to see how he's doing. Oh, and turns out, Willie was a Quail. Yeah, Quails nest on the ground. So while I was looking up in the trees, that thing lurking in the bushes could've been Willie's mom. This is what happens when an x-city girl finds a wild animal. Now I know, should I find a baby bird again, to look for nests on the ground, not only in the trees.....

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

to kill a mockingbird

Harper Lee on the set of To Kill A Mockingbird, via Wikipedia

How is it possible that I've gone 32 years without reading Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird (J.B. Lippincott Company, 1960)?! I had good luck again on the free damaged books cart at the library where I snatched up this Pulitzer Prize winning novel, shoved it in my overstuffed laptop bag, set it on my bookshelf for nearly a month, ran out of books to read one night, remembered that I had Mockingbird, cracked it open on BART on the way to work, and have had my nose buried in its brown, withered pages for the last two weeks (yes, I read slow, but two weeks is actually fast for me).

Where to begin? There is so much to admire in To Kill A Mockingbird. Too many things to list here. So for this post, I'm going to focus solely on the protagonist, Jean-Louise Finch, a.k.a "Scout," the six-year old narrator, because she is an inspiration to me, and I'm guessing to all writers. Scout is the type of character that writer's dream of creating. I don't think Scout's physical appearance is noted anywhere in the book, other than that she wears overalls instead of dresses, and it doesn't need to be. Knowing whether or not her hair is brown or red didn't make one difference to me. Her image is crystal clear. Her actions are what set her apart...

Her hot temper and propensity to fight:
"You can take that back, boy!" This order, given by me to Cecil Jacobs, was the beginning of a rather thin time for Jem and me. My fists were clenched and I was ready to let fly.

Her distaste for school:
"Despite our compromise, my campaign to avoid school had continued in one form or another since my first day's does of it: the beginning of last September had brought on sinking spells, dizziness, and mild gastric complaints. I went so far as to pay a nickel for the privilege of rubbing my head against the head of Miss Rachel's cook's son, who was afflicted with a tremendous ringworm. It didn't take."

And further, when she attempts to blame learning swear words as another reason not to go to school:
"Aw, that's a damn story," I said.
"I beg your pardon?"
Atticus said, "Don't pay any attention to her, Jack. She's trying you out. Cal says she's been cussing fluently for a week, now."
Uncle Jack raised his eyebrows and said nothing. I was proceeding on the dim theory, aside from the innate attractiveness of such words, that if Atticus discovered I had picked them up at school he wouldn't make me go.
But at supper that evening when I asked him to pass the damn ham, please, Uncle Jack pointed at me. "See you afterwards, young lady," he said.

See what I mean? Scout exudes personality in everything that she says and does. I couldn't help but fall in love with her innocent observations and naive queries. She is the epitome of childhood. Remember when you were young, and looking into a snow globe the world inside actually seemed real? Or on nights when the tooth fairy was to arrive, her hand could practically be sensed placing a quarter under your pillow. What about when playing international spies and the sound and vibration of enemy footsteps on a bridge overhead from where you hid could be heard and felt... (okay, maybe the international espionage game was unique to me and my sister - we weren't allowed to watch television during the summer, so we came up with some pretty intricate ideas). What I'm trying to get at in my roundabout way, is that Harper Lee's characterizations of Scout are very astute, endearing, and very real. Summon up the way that world looked inside the snow globe. Reach back in time and pull those memories from your head. If you can reconstruct the innocence and feeling of childhood, like Harper Lee did with Scout, then your story will be that much more real.

Monday, June 14, 2010

a summer reading list for the rich

In case you haven't heard, writers don't make a lot of money, it's true. But that doesn't mean that we can't read like we don't have second and third homes in Paris and Italy. The Wall Street Journal has released the Wealth Report: The Billionaire Book Club: What The Rich Are Reading This Summer by Robert Frank. Yes, the richest of the rich actually have their own summer reading list. The good news is that regular people like me and you don't have to be on Forbes Top 100 to join this book club. JPMorgan bankers from across the globe submitted their top book picks which were then narrowed down to ten by a committee of other financial industry folks, I presume.

The top three books are:

Read the full article here. Also, this makes me wonder, if this list is compiled by folks mainly from the financial sector, what would the list look like if top professionals from the worlds of art, music or food, etc., industries put their top picks together....?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

here comes the baby sister

Elizabeth and Amanda

Sorry I've been so absent lately. I'm trying to pick up some speed with the revisions to my novel Trevelyn's Shimmer, but also, I've been getting ready for my baby sister Elizabeth's wedding.

Lizzy is getting married this Sunday to a man that we all adore, Justin. We - as in all us sisters - like to say that only Justin can handle Liz's big personality. He puts his foot down when he needs to. He tells her like it is. He's the boss! least that's what he/we like to believe. But the truth is, I think they are an equally balanced couple. They've known each other for a number of years, went to high school together but didn't know it until after graduation, and have always loved one another thru thick and thin.

When my mom married Lizzy's dad, I was thrilled to have three new sisters, even if I only got to see them over holidays and during the summer. I remember walking down the street holding Lizzy's hand one summer, when a woman passing us by looked at Lizzy and a huge smile spread across her face. "She's so adorable!" she said. I squeezed my sister's hand tighter and smiled back. I was so proud to be a big sister.

Love you Lizzy and Justin! I'm so happy for you and honored to be in your wedding!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

sick day

I'm too sick to blog about anything with much thought. When I'm sick I have the attention span of a gnat. I started to blog about the beauty of character development in the original Star Wars trilogy, which I watched for over six hours on the Spike network on Sunday, but then my head started to hurt. Watching television without guilt is really the only benefit of being sick, isn't it?

So since I'm too congested to put together any concrete thoughts, for now all I can manage to do is post a photo of Sadie. With a little burst of energy this afternoon I tried to get Sadie to play, but she wasn't having it - she's more into food than toys. To get away from me she slid between her bed and the wall. What can I say, she's just not a play motivated dog....or maybe it was my hacking cough...

sadie in an attempt to hide from me

Thursday, May 20, 2010

fear of birds

I was lying in bed with a fever last night, feeling terrible, when Modern Family came on and despite the chills and aches, I laughed...which kind of hurt, but was well worth it.

I'm a big fan of this show. I really admire the talent of the writers who put together such great, funny story lines week after week.

A segment from last night's episode shows Mitchell's partner, Cameron, singing at a wedding, while Mitchell is at home watching their baby, Lily. Somehow a pidgeon gets into the house and Mitchell freaks out. The clip below is when Mitchell decides to take matters into his own hands in an attempt to extinguish the pidgeon, with break-aways of Cameron singing:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

race in america

Has anyone been watching CNN Anderson Cooper's 360 doll study special on Race in America? Tonight was the second installment of the four-day series on how children view skin color. This is just a pilot study performed on a little more than 100 children of different backgrounds and races, but the results were profound. CNN says that the goal of the study was "to determine the status of children's racial beliefs, attitudes and preferences as well as skin tone biases at two different development periods. Specifically, kindergarten children and middle childhood youngsters attending grade schools in either the Northeast or the Southeast regions of the United States of America were tested by same race female testers. However, the post-test interviews conducted with children and/or their parents were not matched either by race or gender of the interviewer." You can read the full results of the CNN doll study here.

For the study, a child was shown a chart consisting of cartoon-like children, all the same in terms of body-type, dress and facial expression, the only difference being the skin color which ranged from white to black in five different shades. The child was then asked a series of questions and told to point to what skin color they thought was the answer. The interviewers asked what skin color would they most like and least like to have? Which skin color belonged to the nice child and which belonged to the mean child? Or which child would you like as your friend, and which not? An overwhelming amount of fingers (both white and black) pointed to the darker-skin cartoon child on the chart in response to the negative questions. There was also a small amount of children - usually the older ones - who said they could not answer which child was dumb or smart based on their skin color because they would need to talk to them first to find out.

Experts in the field were then shown discussing the results with Anderson Cooper. They pointed to social media, lack of parents taking time to discuss race, and/or parents discussing races other than their own in a negative way, as some of the explanations for the astounding results. And on tonight's show, one of the experts talked about the children's answers having to do with Essentialism, or rather, the idea that a child will group herself with other children of similar skin color and characteristics like height, dress and speech, as a way of identifying herself and fitting in.

I tried to imagine how I would have answered these questions as a child, but I'm not really sure what I would have said. That's why a study like this is done on children, because their minds are still quite pure. I don't really remember my parents ever talking to me about race - although I know we had the "birds and the bees" discussion because my sister reminds me, I was just too young to remember. I grew up in a fairly "white" town in Northern California, very close to San Francisco. There were children of other races at my schools, not a lot, but I was always friends with everyone, no matter what their color. That said, I can see how, even if a child has friends of every race, that they might pick their own skin color as a preference because, if they're anything like me as a child, they're most likely scared of giving an answer that will make them look bad. It seems obvious that when a child is asked who is the smart child, that that child will respond with picking the cartoon character most like them, while choosing the child with the opposite skin color as the one who is dumb. They're associating themselves with their answer and most children will want to give the positive traits to someone who looks like them, wouldn't you if you didn't know better? But, if this CNN pilot study is any indication of how the rest of our country's children would respond, I think we really need to start doing a better job of educating children about discrimination and race. That should probably start with more books and positive shows featuring children of all different colors. Watch some of the clips from CNN below and tell me, what do you think?

one was johnny: a counting book

One Was Johnny: A Counting Book (Harper Trophy, 1991)

One Was Johnny: A Counting Book (Harper Trophy), originally published in 1962 by one of my favorites, Maurice Sendak, is quite a little treasure -and by little I mean that it actually fits in the palm of your hand! I stumbled upon this book when I was browsing the picture book section at Barnes & Noble the other day. I love almost anything Maurice Sendak, but this just might very well sit at the top of my list. One Was Johnny teaches kids to count to ten in a clever, fun, rhyming way. Done with simple illustrations and a minimal use of colors - various shades of blue, green, yellow, gray, black and brown - Johnny is shown as number one, sitting on a small stool near a table in his house, while peacefully reading to himself. A rat appears as number two, jumping on his shelf, followed by a cat, three, who chased the rat, then four, a dog who came in and sat.

Sendak runs through the numbers one through ten, filling up poor Johnny's room with a cast of rowdy characters, until Johnny gets annoyed and tells them that they'd better leave while he counts backwards from ten, otherwise he will eat all of them!

Johnny's facial expressions change from pleased with himself - for thinking of something so clever, while he begins to count - to angry when the monkey steals one of his bananas, to once again at peace as he happily resumes reading his book, all alone - they way he likes it!

I read this to my friend's toddler, Isabella, and she could not get enough. Normally, Isabella tends to have a very short attention span - that of a two year old! - but she planted herself right in my lap while I read One Was Johnny, not once, but twice! By round two I had her pointing to and naming all of the different animals in Johnny's room, and when we got to the picture of the turtle - who enters as number five and bites the dog's tail - Isabella pointed to him and said "Turtle's ornery!" Isabella's mom and I looked at each other and laughed - earlier that morning her mom had called her little brother ornery when he was being stubborn about getting dressed.

Below is a YouTube video showing a singalong version of One Was Johnny. I don't think the illustrations live up to the original ones in Sendak's book - Johnny wears a blue suit, not a cowboy costume - but maybe cowboys were really popular for little boys that year....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

model tyra banks pens a YA fantasy series

Model Tyra Banks has written a book for teens called Modelland (Delacorte Press). The first of the three-book, YA Fantasy series is scheduled to publish in the summer of 2011, according toPublisher's Weekly. Modelland is about a teen girl living in a make-believe society, competing for a way of life that is both revered and out of reach at a model academy consisting of the world's most exceptional models called Intoxibells, of course. I guess we'll have to wait until next year to find out if Banks hit the right notes. Will her tale tell the timeless story of teen angst? Will it be a coming-of-age fantasy-drama? It will be interesting to see if she's mastered the YA voice and genre - as I discuss here.

Model Tyra Banks via TV Fanatic

I guess Banks does get all sorts of hands-on experience dealing with young girls and most definitely models. I caught a couple episodes of this season's America's Next Top Model. The young lady who won, Krista White, had tried out for the show twelve times I think she said, before she even made it on. She never gave up. She stuck it out until the very end, winning a modeling contract and other nice prizes. I'll admit, there's a lot about ANTM that's a bit cheesy and at times hard to watch, but I admire someone who doesn't give up on their dreams. It takes determination and drive to see your dreams become reality - especially when those dream also happen to belong to hundreds, thousands of others. Maybe we can all learn something from that...?

America's Next Top Model winner Krista White. Photo Credit: Monty Adams/Pottle Productions Inc ©2010 Pottle Productions Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

rude, sad and rude

What makes a person say something rude - unprovoked - to a perfect stranger? Does it make them feel better to put another down? Is there something that reminds them of a bad experience they had which makes it necessary for them to take their anger out on an innocent person?

Today I had my feelings hurt. Today was a crappy day.

I left to run an errand at lunch and saw a blind man tapping his cane against the sidewalk. He wasn't near anything. No crosswalk. No mailbox. No entrance anywhere. Clearly he was lost. People were passing him by left and right, looking at him, but not helping. I approached him and and asked if he was looking for the crosswalk. "I'm just trying not to obstruct the crosswalk," he said, laughing uncomfortably. I felt something drop in my stomach - the crosswalk was at least 100 feet away. So I told him. "The crosswalk is to your left. About 100 feet." He thanked me and seemed uncomfortable, so I left. But I couldn't stop looking over my shoulder. He wasn't moving. I turned the corner. Why didn't I just grab his arm and bring him to the crosswalk? This is what I kept asking myself. But I felt awkward. He didn't seem like he wanted any more of my help. Maybe he was scared because he was lost. I of all people should know what it's like to feel scared so much so that you're frozen and can't react.

So that was on my mind as I walked back to my office. I ascended the steps to the revolving door of my building, where a man wearing a white cap with print was exiting. He had earphones in but I was the only person around. As he passed me I smiled as if to say, "Good afternoon," when I heard him say, "She thinks she's attractive, but she's just plain ugly." I kept walking, knowing full well he was talking about me, before I turned to look at him. But his back was facing me as he continued to walk and mumble about how I was ugly.

I know I shouldn't take it personally because clearly this guy was a nut job. But how could I not take it personally? When someone tells you that you are ugly, it stings.

So my question, as I asked at the top, why do people say hurtful things to someone who they don't even know? What was it about me that made that man feel the need to insult? Was he a little off his rocker? Just got the urge to be mean? Why would I get offended, you ask, by a perfect stranger? I wish I could say that it didn't' bother me, but it did. Mostly his comment made me sad and made me wonder what goes on in a person's mind sometimes. It makes me sad that people can be so negative and callous. I'm not looking for compliments, I'm not. I just don't like being talked to like a piece of garbage by a complete stranger - by anyone for that matter - who does?

Sorry that I'm not my usual positive self tonight. I just feel sad and discouraged. I hope that tomorrow will be a better day....

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

bugs, bugs all around

Sadie recovering from her ordeal....

What a day for bugs! What is it about the month of May that brings them out? Whatever it is, they were in full bloom at my house. Sadie woke me up at 5:45am, jumping on the side of my bed like she was gonna blow, and then after she went out all she wanted to do was eat - what's new? Anyway, her behavior had me all freaked out because she was acting exactly how she did last year when she had a mast cell tumor - bad, bad experience for both of us. So I scanned her over and sure enough found a bump on her side. It didn't feel the same as a tumor, at first I thought it was a skin tag, but when I shined the flashlight on it I realized what I was looking at - a tick! Ahhh! A tick! Nasty little blood-suckers. Sadie's had a tick before, but I've always caught them before they've burrowed into her skin. Eeek, the thought alone gives me the chills. So I iced it, picked it out with tweezers, then dunked the little-sucker in a cup of water. After that I washed all of the sheets and doggie beds in hot, hot, hot water. I called the vet to see if I could get the tick tested but was directed to six different numbers before getting an answer! Can you believe that? Six different numbers only to find out that nowhere in Contra Costa County do they test ticks for lyme disease. Perhaps if I was calling on behalf of myself they would have given my call more precedence. But for my dog.... no. Eventually I was re-directed to the mosquito infection control center where I was supposedly going to be told what to look for in a lyme disease infected tick. Tell me, what does mosquito control have to do with ticks? At this point I threw my hands up. If six different health organizations all within Northern California weren't concerned about my dog getting lyme disease, then why should I? I hope I don't regret my decision. Not that mosquito control could have done anything. Now I'm just going to watch Sadie like a hawk to make sure she doesn't show any signs of the dreaded Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. I'll be kicking myself if that ever happens.

Meanwhile, while Sadie was resting up from her ordeal, I went on a run where I encountered bees, bees and more bees. Three ginormous bees flew at my face and one tried to crawl into my baseball cap. I must've looked like a freak to the car passing me by as I ripped off my ball-cap like a maniac and shook it out. Then as I neared my house I saw two men standing under a tall, yellow tree looking up. I knew what they were looking at. The week before I had walked under that same tree when I heard a synchronized buuuzzzzzzzz. Bees. Lots of 'em. Sure enough they had a nest. Reminder to stay away from that side of the street.

Now can I help it if I can't stop itching.....