Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Always Review Directions

Tomorrow is April first. April Fool's Day. It's also my wedding anniversary. This post may wander between my Girls Write Now commitment and my marital commitment for the sake of my commitment to blog about writing, but I promise to make a useful analogy.

While on vacation I had completely forgotten about writing a piece that is due tomorrow for the Girls Write Now (GWN) annual Anthology. . . until prompted by an email from my fabulous mentee Meg, (who has been sick at home with a terrible fever during her vacation. Feel better Meg!) She must turn in her own 800-word piece and she wrote me that she has 1800 words to whittle down. By 5PM tomorrow! For months I thought that mine needed to be 800 words as well, so tonight I frantically culled a piece I wrote during the GWN memoir workshop, and tried to make it longer. I had gotten up to 670 words when I thought it might behoove me to check the GWN website. And guess what? I only needed to turn in a "gem", a mere 300 words! April Fool's Eve! That changed the whole thing. Lesson learned: always review directions!

But April first has a much deeper meaning for me. It is the anniversary of my wedding date, eleven years ago. We like to say we are fools for love. It is a reminder not to take each other for granted.

Look at the tarot card above. The Fool is the first card in the tarot deck - he is looking up blissfully as he steps off the cliff. Now, there was a time in my adolescence when I consulted tarot cards for everything, and they did helped me start my own spiritual peregrinations, but I don't play with them any more. I miss them, a little. The Fool as an archetype can sum up the life of the writer - or at least this writer. Every time I write, and each time I blog I feel as if I am jumping off a cliff into the unknown, but with a flower in my hand and a pack on my back.

I love this image, representing innocence, joy and risk-taking. For our marriage, my husband and I wanted to always have some of that with us as we grew, and grew up together. Certain commitments, risks, and values need to be constantly remade and revisited when you build a life with someone, or with your work. A wedding anniversary, or any return to the blank page, is a reminder to always review directions!

Monday, March 29, 2010

How to Train . . .

The dragons and monsters that are in our collective unconscious have been weighing on my mind as I take my beach vacation. Maybe it is the sun that is asking about the shadow parts of myself. Or maybe it is the fact that I just went to see How to Train Your Dragon in 3D with five kids.

One of my dragons for sure is the creative/destructive impulse. My wild imagination, and yet my capacity for tearing myself down. I've dealt with my shadow self for a long time and have her somewhat trained, but not fully - in fact, she can run rampant in either direction unless I harness her with craft or close family and friends - or other writers.

The other day when I blogged about NOT writing, Writer and friend Elizabeth Winthrop psychically patted me on the back with her comment on Facebook,"Léna, leave it all behind and remember, a writer is never not writing."

Thank you Elizabeth! I took Elizabeth's words to heart today as I went to the grocery store, jumped in the surf on the beach with my kids, sang songs with my daughter and her BFF in the sun. (And getting a wicked sunburn I might add - I'm on of those mom's who make sure the kids are all slathered up, but can't be bothered when it comes to myself.) When we ran out of songs to sing, the girls started to make up their own songs which were far more interesting: all about stars, love, family, and of course, GLITTER. Such wonderful creativity bursting from their four-year-old hearts!

Beautiful, right? And then the shadow side reared it's head at bed-time, the girls over-tired, but wanting to make-up songs again instead of the usual "book" ritual. "Me first!" they both cried. A coin toss seemed reasonable in the moment - leave it up to fate. My daughter's BFF "won" the coin toss, and my daughter handled it extremely well until her BFF started singing, whereupon she flipped out, completely enraged, the green-eyed monster overtaking her little body, shaking her with sobs.

She was able to work it out with a lot of adult help, and is now fast asleep, friends again with her beloved BFF as I write this. And I'm thinking about the movie title, How to Train . . . rather than How to Tame . . . As a writer, I need "to train" by practicing and learning the discipline. To tame means to domesticate, and in creative terms, if something is tame, I might not take it seriously or get anything out of it.

So yes I want to TRAIN my dragon instead of TAME it. I definitely don't want her fire to be extinguished.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Road Trip and Sense Memory

Two days road-tripping from NYC to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, have left me wondering how on earth I'm going to blog and tie everything back to something writerly. I didn't read or write anything, but I listened to A LOT of music, which brings me to tonight's topic: SENSE MEMORY.

In my acting days, Music served as a prop to get me into a certain emotional state of being. Music would help me "remember"; music was my madeleine, (the cookie that aroused Proust in his Remembrance of Things Past) and access the past to be used for the present.

Writing is no different. I am a fiction writer, and I have to put my heart and soul into my writing for there to be truth in it.

Our playlist and forward motion in the car opened an undulation of feeling: Glen's Danzig and Campbell, The White Stripes, Michelle Shocked, Prince, Lyle Lovett, the B52's, Everlast, Iggy Pop . . .

I thought about the other week when I was struggling to finish the first draft of WIP. I had been having such a hard time with the ending, and having my two protagonists realize their feelings for each other was like pulling teeth. On a beautiful sunny day in the city, I went for a walk with my I-POD and played LOVE SONG by The Cure, over and over again. I got into this state of first love. The song reminded me of my boyfriend in Italy when I was 19, and how intense it was. I felt like I was 19 again - the best part of 19. Over the next few days I finished my first draft. Which, as you know, will only be the first of many.

Here in South Carolina, I had fantasized about listening to LOVE SONG and dancing on the beach by myself, but the feeling of young, impassioned love has been replaced with the grounded joy I feel sharing a life with my husband and children: but I know that I have access to my adolescence with the click of a button.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wierd Al . . . And Me.

Last night's bed-time story for the boys was another chapter of The Return of the King: The Ride of the Rohirrim. Tonight we needed something funny, so we eschewed Tolkien for Wierd Al Yankovic and Youtube. Yes, Weird Al, king of musical parody from the late '80's and early '90's slowly turned our giggles into hysterics as we first watched the original Michael Jackson's BEAT IT (hilarious in and of itself) followed by the timeless EAT IT.

"Can we watch more mom?" they pleaded, and I complied. (Yes it was a joy to share something from my youth, but it also helped me procrastinate from blogging!) We watched Nirvana's Smell's Like Teen Spirit, and then Wierd Al's Smells Like Nirvana. Kurt Cobain is known to have said that he knew they made it after hearing Wierd Al's satire.

Here is my thought for tonight: What constitutes my Wierd Al parody, and how do I not take myself too seriously?

I'll admit that I was anxiously avoiding the blog because I thought I had nothing to write about - especially since I had been so effervescent in my last blog about finishing the first draft of my WIP, and that I was going to start revising and ripping it to shreds. I printed it out, but haven't had time to even look at more than the first scene. I could write a long list of all of my other obligations, but I won't bother, because I know that you have them too, I am not alone in this balancing act.

I have to take my writing seriously, otherwise no-one else will, but I also need to keep a sense of humor, and wear life like a loose garment.

So thank you Wierd Al, for inspiring this blog and for reminding me not to stress out about blogging, that it is meant to be a fun, social networking, spiritual exercise. (Now can you help me find time to work on my novel's next draft?)

Monday, March 22, 2010

In the Words of Miss Piggy: Go Moi!

Feeling Miss Piggy-ish today and full of moi, lit-life-speaking. Why? I finished a first draft of my Work In Progress this morning. I know, I've been saying that a lot, but this time it's TRUE. Now I get to my favorite part of this process: revision! This is what always makes me feel like a real writer. I have something tangible in my hands, and now I can get down to the bones of craft.

Yes, lots going on in my lit life today . . . After typing in my last word on WIP, I hopped on the subway to go downtown to meet my editor on EDGES for lunch. Margaret Ferguson and I hadn't seen each other in the flesh for a year. (The life of a writer is not constant contact with their editors (or agents), no matter how beloved they are. Unless everyone else is lying). She had suggested a restaurant called ALMOND, and I love getting out of my neighborhood and trying new things. I arrived on the early side, scooping a corner booth at this swank restaurant kitty-corner to the FlatIron Building where Margaret works.

It was dark. "Very romantic choice," I joked with Margaret when she came.

"Well," she sighed. "We all need a little romance." And we proceeded to have a wonderful time, talking about the ups and downs of the year, and dreams for the future.

Next up was meeting my Girls Write Now mentee Meg, at a Starbucks near you. We had said that we were going to work on our anthology pieces, but weren't in the mood. We promised each other we would get it done by Thursday, before Spring Break. I had my laptop with me, and the "bright" idea that since she's my mentee, I would subject her to my first draft, in all of its awfulness, so that she could see the first stage of a novel. I'm glad that we spent some time reading a few scenes together, because I realized that I didn't want to do that to her, no matter how flattering she was about my writing. I haven't even read it all through to see if it makes sense! I didn't want to burn her out, so I promised I would clean it up and show her more when it came to the second draft.

You would think that would be enough in the lit-life-day, wouldn't you? But capped it off by making my way up to Writopia to meet with a high school junior to work on her college essay. In the words of Miss Piggy: Go moi!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Short, Short Story . . . with a Twist

I had the pleasure of representing Writopia this morning with my talented and dedicated boss, Rebecca Wallace-Segall, at a Young Writer's Workshop in Scarsdale, New York. Scarsdale - famous not only for the diet, but for being one of the toniest suburbs in the world, and a place where education is revered (as it should be everywhere) at the top of its industry.

This was an impressive event: The Scarsdale parents had encouraged 500 of their 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, to sign up for a Saturday morning of creative writing workshops with 47 different teaching artists! Rebecca had signed us up to teach two consecutive workshops of 9 kids each, and to have each child create a "short, short story with a twist" in 45 minutes. Yes, a daunting task for anyone, but Rebecca and I have experienced firsthand the creative capabilities of children if in the right environment. We weren't going to give these kids blank paper and pens and tell them to write willy-nilly, oh no.

Rebecca and I were shown to our separate classrooms, and immediately rearranged the rows of desks into a circle. At Writopia, we are kid-centered and collaborative. We were each assigned a "mom" volunteer, (wearing a fetching green Young Writers Workshop tee-shirt) to take attendance, and the kids began to file in. I greeted them enthusiastically, introducing myself and Writopia, and laying the groundwork for the next forty-five minutes.

We all know about characters and objective, and the very basic elements of "story", so we don't need to go into that here. But how do you explain a plot twist to an eight year old? Simple stories end with the character either getting what they want, or not - a twist ending is that character meeting that objective in an unexpected way. When Rebecca and I had brainstormed, we came up with giving the kids a structure of a beginning and a surprise ending, and they could have twenty minutes to fill in the middle.

"It's Alice's birthday and she wants to have a sleepover, but her parents say no," I told them. How does she behave? What choices does she make in order to get what she wants? Does she give up? "We end with Alice getting what she wants, but her parents had planned the sleepover all along."

Most young writers (and old ones too) worry about copying and plagiarism: being original. This is a wonderful exercise to show how unique "voice" is, even when having the same framework of story. I guaranteed them that each would have a different story and that it would be fascinating.

A few of the third graders weren't able to start right away.

"I think they're too young," my classroom mom whispered.

I nodded to show that I understood her concern. "They can do it," I whispered back. "Give them a chance." I gave one boy a different objective of going to the zoo to get him started. Another boy spent five minutes looking to his upper left side, insisting that he was okay: "He's accessing the right part of his brain," I explained to the mom, and then he spent the next twenty minutes writing furiously.

All of them did, and all of them took pride in sharing their unique voices, with texture and depth, dialogue and detail. Of course some were more sophisticated, but that's beside the point. I loved this mom, who voiced my fears from a place of the best intention. I loved how it was proved again how children are capable of so much more creativity than we adults can fathom.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bacchus, The Green Man and St. Patrick

Happy St. Patrick's day. Are you wearing green? Everybody in my family is wearing green today. Ah! - you say - the Roys must have all kinds of Irish going on. We do have a lot of British Isles in us: Scotland, Wales and England, and a bit of Ireland too. But we wear green especially because March 17th is also my son's birthday. He is eight today, and he loves green and clovers (and no, he does not use them to pontificate on Christianity's Trinity as St. Patrick did).

My friend Dorothy Papadakos has written a wonderful musical called Bacchus, and yesterday I received an e-card from her wishing me a happy holiday, in honor of Bacchus. From the card I learned that March 17th (and 16th) is not only St. Patrick's Day, but also the ancient Roman festival of Bacchus, Roman god of wine, madness and ecstasy (he is also the god of theater and agriculture, but of course my thoughts go straight to the divinity in madness and ecstasy.)

There is a god from the British Isles called The Green Man, similar to the Roman Bacchus in that he is an ecstatic fertility god, bringing new life at the spring equinox. Are these two related to St. Patrick? Why are we wearing green? Why are the streets filled with drunks on this particular day? These questions thrill me. My father, an Episcopal priest, always said that a second hand religion was no religion, and I learned to search for answers myself. My grandmother encouraged me to ask bigger and bigger questions. Reading Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth as an older teen began a journey of finding my own spirituality and constantly looking at different points of view, a quest that continues in my writing, as I find myself drawn to making otherworldly connections with my very real characters.

After Joseph Campbell I moved on to Carl Jung's The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, which brings me back to my son and his almost primal urge to identify with the symbols of this season. When I was pregnant, his "due" date was March 28th, but I knew he'd be born sooner. "Any day but March 17th, any day but March 17th" I chanted. "Why?" my family asked. "Everybody will be drunk and I won't be able to get a taxi!" was my hormonal, irrational (Bacchanalian?) response, ignoring the possibilities that Campbell and Jung had shown me.

Eventually, I will share these books with my son and he can unravel the mysteries of Bacchus, the Green Man, St. Patrick, spring equinox and Easter too, and why it is he likes clovers and the color green.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Forgive me Father, For I Have Multi-Tasked

Multi-tasking is not something I am proud of, but is what I find myself constantly doing to keep my life organized and on track. For instance, at present I am sitting in on my son's violin lesson while I answer emails and attempt to blog, whilst thoughts of making school lunches and my daughter's readiness for bed invade my concentration.

I go back and forth between taking notes for my son's violin lesson and this blog, making a concerted effort to stay in one tense: the present. (A couple of days ago I wrote about my propensity for writing in a myriad of time zones. There. I just used the past tense. Oh well!)

Time! I can't seem to get enough of it: I'm fascinated by it, enslaved by it, just like everybody else in this perpetual-motion-forward, results-oriented world. No wonder I love reading books where my sense of time can be "lost", or that I confuse my tenses in my writing, and that I am drawn to writing as a means of making sense of the past, exploring the future, and finding out what I believe in the present.

Here's a cliché for you: If you have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, then you are pissing on the present. But writing teaches me that everything informs and builds on everything else! Why must I beat up on myself for multi-tasking and mixing up tenses? If I truly want to appreciate the moments I am really present, I need to give myself a break for being only human.

Let's make a pact: Let's celebrate all of it together, all of the moments of messy multi-tasking as well as the purely present moments. Let's go hog wild and forgive ourselves and each other for past mistakes.

Now, if that could only translate to finishing my novel . . .

Saturday, March 13, 2010

One Word At A Time . . . in the Rain

On Facebook today, everybody's Status Update in the tri-state area is rain related. My friends are stuck in traffic on their way to NYC with their brand new baby due to a fallen tree. A tree! My brother is making his way uptown on a bus that is evidently almost as wet inside as outside.

In other words, it was and still is the perfect day to stay home and curl up on the couch with a good book. OR to go out and be with a group of friends and their laptops for some creative writing. I was hoping that my Saturday group of girls at Writopia would choose the latter, and I wasn't disappointed. (Although as I weaved my way down the slick city streets, no cab in sight, I questioned my sanity. But nobody can say I lack commitment!)

We were comfortable inside, protected from the rain and chatting up story ideas, instead of working on stories. There was so much brainstorming going on that we ended up playing "hot laptop". (Yes, same as the "hot notebook" game that my Girls Write Now mentee Meg and I play, only this time with five girls plus me!) I love this: writing as a social event and opportunity for learning about voice and story structure. Making ourselves write - at least a sentence, because someone else depends on it. One word at a time.

I have been struggling to finish the crappy first draft of Work in Progress for a couple of weeks now. I know what needs to be written, but I can't seem to get it down on paper (um, computer). I'm childishly waiting for the inspiration, when the grown-up part of me knows that the inspiration comes from the perspiration, from just doing it.

One word at a time. (This post reminds me that I'm due to read Bird by Bird by Anne LaMott again. Doesn't she say that? And so much better than I?)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tense: Past, Present, Future

In every meaningful relationship, each person brings to the table some beautiful qualities, and some very annoying ones. Confession: I have a habit that drives my husband to distraction whenever I ask him to read something unedited (like a blog): My blatant disregard for tenses.

"Léna," he says slowly, then with rising exasperation, "You started in the present tense and then switched to the past tense, and then back again!"

Past tense, present tense, future, the pluperfect - how does a gal keep it all straight?

Lest you think I'm a ditz here, in my youth I was often up to my eyeballs in conjugating verbs in French, Latin, and in college, Italian. A sense of time is important in many languages. But recently I came across a language where these tenses don't even exist!

"How wonderful," was my immediate, visceral reaction. I love writing about the American Southwestern desert: much of EDGES is set there, and it also serves as the backdrop for my current Work In Progress. I am trying to learn as much about the Hopi Indians, (a people in Northeastern Arizona) as possible, and it is the Hopi language that eschews tense. What does that say about them as a people? Are they always in the present? I have so much more to find out!

This concept also reminds me of my grandmother, and the ways she would play with the concepts of time in her books. Is time linear? Is there really a past, a present, a future, a pluperfect? Her books and her over-riding philosophy of life started to teach me that maybe it's not, maybe all things happen together at once, and we are all an important part of the fabric of the universe.

So is this a lofty way of making excuses for myself and lazy writing? Probably, but it is definitely worth further exploration into the mindset of the Hopi Indians!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Megday: Sometimes Ya Gotta Gab

"What should I blog about," I ask and Meg strokes her chin. Meg is my mentee from Girls Write Now and we meet every Monday. We have just spent our past writing hour gabbing together about this and that. We usually meet at Starbucks, but as my daughter is sick, we are in my living room while my angel watches Noggin.

"Well," I say, attempting profound thoughtfulness. "Sometimes ya gotta gab in order to . . ." I falter and stare into space. "C'mon Meg, help me out here. Be fab?"

"Be drab?" Meg offers. "No, that's terrible. To catch a crab?"

We need something pithy and too the point. This is embarrassing.

"I don't know what it is about your couch, but it makes me want to spill my guts," Meg says. We did have a plan: we were to write rough drafts for the fantastic Girls Write Now anthology: 800 words.

"Okay, we'll just have to do them on our own then, and go over them next week," I say. "Sometimes ya gotta gab . . . this is driving me nuts!"

"It's all good," Meg says, pausing. And I know she's right. It sure is all good. Writing, talking about writing, delving into and finding pieces of ourselves through relationships with others. "Sometimes ya gotta gab . . . is a profound statement in and of itself," Meg finishes her thought.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Surrounded by creativity, whether I like it or not.

I didn't want to leave my family this morning. My daughter was sick, which meant my husband would be stranded in the house with all three kids all day. But I had other commitments, as my life has gotten bigger and bigger. I needed to be at a Playwrighting Workshop at Girls Write Now in the morning, and at Writopia in the afternoon.

"We'll be fine," my husband said over my son wailing Led Zeppelin on his electric guitar.

"Can I watch TV?" My daughter was coughing and her eyes watering. It was just going to be that kind of day, and there was nothing I could do about it except to go and show up for the other parts of my life.

Down at Girls Write Now, Meg, my mentee, greeted me with a big hug at the refreshment table. At our monthly workshops, we always start off with a writing ice-breaker, so Meg and I spread bagels with gloppy natural peanut butter, sat down, rolled up our sleeves and started working, coming up with three characters and stage directions. I hadn't noticed the subtitle: One-woman show. (Cool! I had written and performed a one woman show fifteen years ago as my thesis for my MA in Drama Therapy called: Pandora's Hot Box.)

Writer, actress, mentor (and former classmate at Barnard) Julie Polk took us through a dynamic analysis of The Wizard of Oz, going through the six components of dramatic structure: 1) Status Quo and Exposition, 2) Inciting Incident, 3) Rising Action, 4) Turning Point, 5) Climax, 6) Resolution. It was a wonderful reminder to check my current manuscript for all of these elements; it would help me get organized.

Next up was Craft Talk with actor, teacher, writer Petronia Paley, who performed a piece from her own one-woman show, On The Way to Timbuktu. Her presence, rhythm and character changes were compelling. Then she talked about delving into your higher self to write, and lead us through a pranayama: a yogic breathing exercise. It reminded me that my best writing comes from a place where I am relaxed and open.

I wasn't able to stay for the in depth writing exercise after that, but I was happy to go back uptown and see my Writopian girls, who were ready, willing and eager to write. It's funny how much energy is supporting me to live a creative life: I find myself surrounded, even in the moments when I don't want it, when I just want to stay in bed and cuddle my sick daughter. That's what these commitments with other writers are good for. And now, next time I sit down to write and have that "block" I will do a yogic pranayama exercise, and think of Petronia Paley!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A World of Radical Possibility

What is that? A church? I thought she promised to blog about her Writers 4 Writers lunch, and brag about the gang: Rebecca Stead, Deborah Heiligman, Elizabeth Winthrop and Lucy Frank? Instead we get church? Well folks, I'm sorry to disappoint, but there's nothing about our lunch I can really share with the world at large - but know that we sat there for hours and were loath to leave one another! (Daphne Grab and Carolyn Mackler were sorely missed.)

So yes, today's blog will be about the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where I work part-time as a tour guide and workshop leader for the education department. What does that have to do with a Lit.Life, you may well ask. St. John the Divine is the patron saint of writers for one, and for another, it is a place I will forever associate with my grandmother, who for forty years was the librarian and the writer-in-residence. I became involved with the Cathedral myself, volunteering to create a workshop for the education department based on A Wrinkle in Time. Later, I created a more generalized writing workshop. Last summer I thought, hmmmm . . . the money sure isn't raking in with my writing career, maybe I should work here. So I underwent training to become a tour guide, looking at the cathedral in a secular, educational way.

Today I had the insane pleasure of giving an architecture tour to my son's second grade class. My son was excited, the class was excited, and I was over the moon that my son still thinks I'm cool. I led them through the cathedral, explaining the mish-mash of architectural styles, Gothic and Romanesque, pointed arches vs. rounded arches, columns vs. piers. There were tech people around preparing for an event and at one point, the dark cathedral was flooded with light. A gasp came from a little girl in the class.

"Do miracles happen in this cathedral?" she asked.

"I love your question, Why do you ask?" I said, not knowing where this conversation would lead.

"Well, when the lights came on, it felt like a miracle." Wow. She blew me away.
I didn't have an answer, but I riffed off of her.

"Yes! Often it depends on what you believe and how you choose to see things. I think people who come here, regardless of religion, want to believe in miracles in this beautiful space. So they see them."

"I felt one," the girl corrected me.

All I could do is nod, and ponder her Yoda-like response.

The other kids seemed satisfied with this answer, and I went on to talk about how the building is structured, with an emphasis on flying buttresses, getting the prerequisite giggles.

But I kept thinking about the girl's question and her certainty in feeling. This theme also comes up in EDGES, as it is something that is always hovering about my consciousness: what we believe and how we cope. As a writer, I value child-like curiosity, I strive for the openness to see and to listen to the characters and their story. And as a grown-up, maybe I strive too hard to see, and not to feel. I too long for a sense of the miraculous, and want to live in a world of radical possibility.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Honoring Dr. Seuss' Birthday

What better way to honor Dr. Seuss' birthday than to participate in a READ ACROSS AMERICA event at friend Steve Evangelista's charter school, Harlem Links! Steve found me last year through my grandmother's website, and came to a few writing workshops that I was leading at Morningside Bookstore on the Upper West Side (including a workshop based on A Wrinkle in Time.) He then invited me to come and share my love of reading with some other writers and board members of his school.

So it was with eager anticipation today that I walked over to Harlem Links' new location on 111th and Lenox. I would also be hanging out with friends Elizabeth Winthrop and Courtney Sheinmel. Elizabeth is old friends with two of the board members, (Steve had made the connection between Elizabeth and myself through this blog), and I had recommended Courtney because I think every tween should read POSITIVELY. (Elizabeth's catalog of work is too long and awe-inspiring to list!)

We were greeted by coffee and muffins, and had a chance to schmooze with some of the other guests. This was followed by each pair of guest readers sitting at a table with four "ambassador" students. Elizabeth and I were at a table with four fifth graders who were eager to be read to. One girl remembered me from last year, and that I had read The Lorax to her fourth grade class. Would I read it again? You bet! Elizabeth and I developed a great rhythm together with the kids: I read and paused at certain places, and we would raise questions about character and plot.

Next up: Elizabeth and I went to different classrooms for a read-aloud and a Q&A. Elizabeth brought her book, Squashed In the Middle to read. I asked my two ambassadors to choose a book for me, and they picked my favorite: Oh, the Places You'll Go!

The kids brought me up to their classroom and set up a chair for me, even offering me water and going so far as getting me a peppermint!

I enjoy reading aloud immensely - and this was no different. The children were attentive and appreciative, but it was the Q & A that blew me away: so much curiosity and sharp intelligence about the writing process! I could have stayed much longer and schmoozed with them, but alas, they had the rest of the school day, and other things to learn.

Courtney and I met afterward for lunch in the neighborhood. We compared notes on a wonderful, enriching morning, feeling grateful to have our opportunities in the literary world, and the chance to enthuse young readers about books.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Next post: Thursday, March 4th - another Writers for Writers lunch!

Monday, March 1, 2010

EDGES: ARC show & tell

How to celebrate hard work coming to fruition? Carry around bound galley and show to absolutely everyone you meet! (I would go get a pedicure, but all three kids need new shoes!) My first stop was breakfast with the fabulous Lila Castle who brought along her ARC of The Star Shack to show me. We cooed and oohed and ahhed over each other's babies as any other mother would do. It's so wonderful to be able to share this experience with Lila! I've also had a really fun experience on Facebook, where friend Lauren B. Davis suggested another friend Lish McBride from Seattle because we both have YA books coming out next fall. We've had a great time getting to know each other in cyber-land, and she got her ARC's about a week before mine!

Next stop in my Lit.Life was home to write a scene for my new book. I should have stayed out, because the bed (my office) was too comfortable, I couldn't help closing my eyes . . .

And as you know, Monday is also Megday, so I woke myself up to run to a different Starbucks to meet her . . . and she shared my excitement about the ARC. The ARC! It's been YEARS of struggling with self doubt about my choice to heed the call to practice the art of writing, and I am doing everything I can to set up my life so I can keep at it! My eyes are watering . . . I am SO grateful!

I will leave you with my favorite piece of writer advice this week, from Margaret Atwood, via Lauren B. Davis:

"You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there's no free lunch. Writing is work. It's also gambling. You don't get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you're on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don't whine."

Tomorrow, Tuesday: READ ACROSS AMERICA at my friend Steve Evangelista's school, Harlem Links, with friends Elizabeth Winthrop and Courtney Sheinmel!