Monthly Archives: February 2013


When you see a title like suspense, you may think I’m going to talk craft. Or maybe how a book I just read kept me up until 2 AM only to turn out the light when Tom grumbled so loudly that Sammy woke up and needed to go outside. Or maybe it would be about how suspense has no place to hide. Well, you would be wrong. I’m talking about the suspense of the serial.

For the most part, I’m happy with the age in which I was born. Sometimes I wish I had been born later or earlier but really, I’m good. But there are days when I wish was a kid when the movies were done in serial form. Like the Perils of Pauline, shown in weekly installments, the ultimate in cliff hangers. I get chills just thinking of walking out of a darkened theater, the video image burned into my brain, worried about the heroine, angry at the villain, good lord, life does seem simpler then.

When Harry Potter was complete as a series, when The ClockWork Dark series finished, when His Dark Material ended, need I go on? Then I feel sad. I’m sad for those readers who don’t have to wait, who haven’t held the main characters close, worrying about them, wondering what will happen to them, caring for them. Those readers just pick up the next book and Voila! the story is completed.  What I look for is the suspense the author meant for the story, the suspense of waiting, anticipating, wondering, hoping, dying to know what happens is just that glorious. Maybe I wasn’t born when Pauline was in peril, but I’m more than happy to be around now for the suspense of the yet to be completed serial, no matter where I find it.


Valentine’s Day

Ah, Valentine’s Day, of cupids and hearts and roses, red, of course. At first, celebrating this day was all about courtly love, where the lover makes himself more worthy by acting bravely. Since the middle ages it’s moved to romantic love, more along the medieval ideal of chivalry. Somehow, I doubt that unrequited love, comes in on this day.

The name “Valentine” is derived from valens, like valor: strong, powerful, worthy.

It’s a saint’s day in the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Greek Orthodox Church. In the Catholic Church, at one time we celebrated this as a feast day, a martyr who died on the Via Flaminia. That’s right. Not celebrating life, love or anything close. Just martyrdom, but what is martyrdom but the supreme act of love. We really know little about this person or persons. There could be three or more of these Valentine saints. And so, Benedict XVI made St Valentine’s Day, much like St. Christopher back in the eighties, a commemoration, not a feast day.

Still, I like that the name comes from the same root word as valor. I think that’s what you need for love. You need to be strong to withstand all the adversity that comes with a loving relationship. You need to be powerful in your belief that you belong together, that this is the path chosen and it is good. And you need to be worthy of love, all kinds of love that comes to you. So, I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day.


I tell people I grew up without weather. When I was in college at what is now CalState Northridge, my urban geography teacher said that Southern California was in the last throes of perfect weather. That was why the movie industry located itself in the area. For a while I was truly upset, how dare that great weather pass me by!  But eventually I came to cherish the idea that I had lived through a time unprecedented. Only problem was few people knew it. Maybe, with that in my history is the reason I find weather so fascinating, mostly snow. I had my fill of earthquakes living through the Sylmar quake of 1971. And, having never lived in the middle of the country, I’ve never experienced a tornados. Hurricanes are loud, booming, in your face weather.

But snow? It is so quiet. It blankets, a cliche, I know, but still. Maybe cliches come from absolute truths, and because we say them so often, it becomes, not just true, but boring. Still, it blankets.  The world softens, it blurs into white on white. Beautiful as it is, it is dangerous. It is deadly, the snow, especially the heavy and wet stuff, takes out trees, power lines, roofs, just by its weight, by its doing nothing but falling, softly, gently down, on anything and everything.

I often think about what we mean as a traditional Christmas, with snowflakes on windows, and evergreen trees, the red of the holly berry. And, it takes a while to remember two very important things about snow: less than a a third of the population of the planet experience a Currier & Ives Christmas, and, most snow the wicked, terrible weather of snow comes in the middle of winter, long past the glories of the holidays.

brain synapsis

Yes, Google, I do think you have made me stoopid!  Well, read for yourself and you decide. My brain synapsis fire differently now. Ah, well, maybe it’s not just Google. I sometimes wonder if it has made us less of a research and think society and more of a check out Wikipedia and write.  Shaun Tan @#ny12scbwi said drawing is thinking. Well, so is writing. I think writing is drawing too. Maybe we don’t put pencil to paper and make a line, crooked or straight. Maybe we don’t use ink to define the line. Maybe we don’t use color to illuminate or add depth. But in writing we do draw everything from conclusions to a hook to a horrific cliff [not fiscal, those aren’t as real as my cliffs].

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, yes. It can be. But me, I’d take the thousand words first. It’s harder for me to see the mind working in a picture, because once it is completed it is done. We can draw story out from what we see, but a picture to me is more about how the artist sees the world or wants to see it or doesn’t see it, but imagines it. That’s sort of what Shaun Tan said.He said when you know the story, it’s not good. Whoa! Very metaphysical and just plain deep. Maybe that’s why a picture book story is so very hard for me, the combination of story and picture frustrates me, it’s the lack of control, the ability of someone else making the story more. For me, when I read those thousand words, well, I can see the writer’s mind moving slowly through the story, picking and choosing words, placing them in a certain order, making the story progress at their pace. That is my kind of drawing.


The NYC SCBWI Winter 2013 conference is a blur. It will take me weeks to process. I have flashes of what is good and great. The conference is like the old ‘onion’ metaphor. You peel back the layers. First, well, d’oh, it’s New York. A wonderful city we don’t really spend that much time in. Next year I think we’ll plan on a week up front or a week behind. [probably depends on who is running where and what we want to do.] Then there is the excitement of the keynote speakers. This year I was blown away by Meg Rostoff. Shoot! now I have to find her books and read them. In the afternoon, the amazing art of Shaun Tan and his THE ARRIVAL. The Oz contingent cheered.

Sunday am, the fabulous Margaret Peterson Haddix talked about story, my favorite thing, story. Following by Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. Sitting in the front row, yes, yes, just inches, well, feet, from the most well-known icon, it was a time to be dazzled and later understand they talked about collaboration, story, outline, mission statement, revision and editing. Yes, they did pack a lot into one hour. Closing keynote was Mo Willems. Funny, irreverent [did you expect anything less?] outrageous, and talented. I was so mesmerized I forgot to take notes. Ah, well, memories 🙂

But by far the best part of the conference is the connecting; with friends, with acquaintances, with editors and agents who are open and interested. And now, back…