Monthly Archives: February 2014


One enormous pile of research notes and failed drafts…

Plus scads of notes to self, scribbled while out on walks, in the middle of the night, and sometimes even at my desk…


Plus innumerable exchanges with a brilliant editor who refused to accept anything murky, hackeneyed, or too hot-messy… 


A book! I just finished copyediting the manuscript. There’s a cover sketch. Amnesia has already set in. That wasn’t so bad! I think I’ll do it again!

The W Word

John Updike once praised winter weather for how it brings us together–we huddle, we cuddle. At this point in a winter that just refuses to give up, it’s mostly bringing people I know together to moan, complain, and spew epithets.

But on Saturday my husband and I decided to fight back. We hitched up the sled dogs and mushed our way down to the Botanical Gardens in University Circle–reason #48 to come to Cleveland, oh those of you who never have. It’s the annual Orchid Mania Show, and the colors and perfumes of those crazy, surreal flowers were never more welcome.

For Sale! This side of the window: Eden. The other side: Siberia.

The ribbon winners! This is serious business, apparently.

The house of the orchid fairies!

I have an order in f0r a dress to match this one.

We also visited the glass house, home to plants, birds and butterflies of the cloud forest. Here’s a butterfly protesting that her picture is not on the educational sign.

And last but not least—

The gleeful turtle baby, long one of my very favorite sculptures. Even the February sun can’t resist shining on her.

There, don’t you feel a little bit better now? Good.


First, the obligatory feet shot!

So, I got to commune with my toes for three days! (For too many weeks now, my toes and I have met only in the brief interval between tugging off my socks and sticking them under the covers).  Those are some blissed-out feet you’re looking at.

My head was happy, too. I was in Orlando, at a retreat with fellow Greenhouse Literary writers. Our first morning together, my agent Sarah Davies described how, when she told a friend who agents adult work how she was bringing all her clients together, he regarded her with what could only be described as a mask of horror.  Apparently assembling his authors together in one room would result in vicious comparing of advances and marketing plans, howling and bloodshed, etc.  We kids’ writers seem to be a different breed. Not that we’re immune to doubt or envy (more on that in a second), but the over-riding ethos was camararderie and support and wow, aren’t we insanely lucky to  get to do this thing we do?

(see the bumblebee?)

Sarah likes to pepper her talks with quotes, and one that made my heart beat faster was about how memories decompose, and how then, as writers, we recompose them into stories. (Maybe it was Graham Greene?)  That got me scribbling ideas for my new work. She also urged us to know what we’re saying, to consider the take-away–this needs to go above my computer in big block letters. But lest we get too pragmatic: she wished us big thoughts,  inspiration in big ideas. Respiration, inspiration–breathe into that work.

John Cusick, Sarah’s fellow agent and a writer himself, dispensed tips on how to stay (relatively, or at least ostensibly) sane doing our solitary, inherently risky work.  In this society, isolation is more or less synonomous with unhappiness, yet it’s necessary to a writer. One thing he said particularly struck me: envy is your brain telling you what you really want. Listen, and work toward it.  John also reminded us (and himself) not to be too goal directed/anal retentive, but to remember to sometimes write just for fun.  Ahh.


(Speaking of fun: the Loch Ness monster made of Legos at the Disney Marketplace across the street from our hotel. That’s the Rainforest Cafe in the background–a volcano that erupts. There’s not exactly a lot of segue in the Magical Kingdom).

It’s rare that advice is simultaneously pragmatic and emotionally helpful, yet that’s what the weekend consisted of. Also lots of laughs with fellow writers whom I’ve long admired but never met; a talent show that included knife throwing and black belt karate (who says kids’ writers are a docile bunch?) ; a reading of first pages, new books  about everything from serial killers to ABC’s; and yes–sunshine and toe wiggling.

A two hour flight had me back here,  in the  White Northern Kingdom. Too fast, too dizzying. But waiting for me: the copyedited manuscript of “Moonpenny Island”. And so, off to my solitary, my risky, my insanely privileged vocation.

I’ve  been to Florida once in my life, and that was in summer with a six month old baby, so my main memory is trying to keep her from getting fried to a little crisplet.  Now I’m getting to go again, and I’m really hoping it looks like that picture (insert my boneless body in the hammock).

You may need to also add a few people running around with mouse ears on their heads, since I’ll be in Orlando. Not for Cinderella’s castle, but for a retreat sponsored by The Greenhouse, my literary agency. Sarah G. Davies (the G is for genius) has masterminded a get-together of as many clients, from both here and the U.K., as can make it. I’m really looking forward to actually meeting my comrades, many of whose books I’ve read and loved. Being a writer is a mostly solitary business, and this is kind of the equivalent of an office taking a cruise together, so I expect some high times. Also, I’ve lately gotten some nice book news (TBA!) so I anticipate clinking a glass (or even two) with Sarah. In the sunshine!

Meanwhile, here at the desk, I’m at the stage in a new piece where I’m still telling myself I’m just fooling around. Not really writing, uh uh. No way. I love this time. It’s a  bit like riding in a glass bottomed boat, watching bright schools of fish, and maybe something unexpected, like a manta ray, glide by beneath you. No responsibilites, just watching…