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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

back to school

Both girls are back in school this week. Stella woke up at 6 a.m. yesterday, ready to dash out the door and wait for the bus. “I’ve tried to go back to sleep,” she whispered, “but I can’t.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “You can get ready.”

I’ve never seen her brush her hair and teeth so fast. And then she was dressed, had eaten breakfast and triple-checked her backpack. Photos were taken and more photos were taken until finally she rolled her eyes and said, “Okay, mom. Okay, okay.” And then she was off, running to the bus stop, thrilled to be, as she had mentioned the day before, an “official first grader.”

Zoë’s transition was a little more challenging. As I drove her to preschool, she started to cry. “Don’t want to go to school,” she wailed. “I stay home. I tired. I take a nappy.” Poor kid. She thought I’d let her stay home if she slept all day.

Then she said, “I want Stella go to school wit me.” And every time we saw a school bus, she said, “Stella in there?” That killed me.

I tried to point out the big diggers at a construction site. I tried to tell her how excited her school friends and teachers would be to see her again. None of it worked. I had to pry her from my body and hand her off to her teachers when we got to school. The last thing I saw was her red, tear-stained face over the shoulder of one of her teachers. I felt sick as I drove to the coffee shop.

The truth is that I’m thrilled to have longer stretches of time to work. I love having a set schedule, knowing exactly how many hours a week I can prepare my classes and write. I love having time to run during the day a few times a week. And I know Zoë will adjust. This morning was already smoother (though she still offered to stay home and nap). She said, “No, I not go to school. I just stay here with you.”

“But I have to go to work, sweetie.”

She shook her head. “No, you not go to work.”

“Mommy always comes back for you,” I said, reminding her of the Hap Palmer song she loves.

“Just like Baby Songs,” she said.

“Just like that,” I agreed.

And instead of tears when I dropped her off, she just buried her face in my shoulder and told me she was shy.

“That’s okay, sweetie. You’ll feel like playing soon.”

She was probably zooming down the slide a few minutes after I drove away, so I shouldn’t feel so melancholy. And I know this heaviness is about more than leaving a sad daughter at daycare; it’s about the way the start of the school year marks the end of summer, the passing of another year. In a minute, Zoë will be rolling her eyes at me and running to the bus behind Stella, and I can’t even imagine what Stella will be doing. And I’ll probably have more writing time than I ever wanted. I should be careful what I wish for.

How is the transition back to school for those of you who have little ones?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

fall classes at the loft

I can’t believe fall is right around the corner. Everyone (Stella, Zoë, D.) will be back in school next week, which will be disorienting. But I’ll have time to finish the revision (please, please) and gear up for my fall classes, all of which I’m really excited about.

This is what I'll be teaching:

Mother Words - 10 week class at the Open Book, Minneapolis
Tuesdays, 1-3 p.m. Sept. 28 - Dec. 7 (No class Nov. 23)

Whether you are a new mom or a veteran, whether you gave birth to or adopted your child, in this class you’ll learn how to take birth and motherhood stories and turn them into art. We’ll talk about the use of humor and explore ways to capture funny motherhood anecdotes on paper. We’ll also discuss and write about the heartbreak and loss that are part of motherhood. Weekly writing exercises will focus on telling details, character development, and strengthening your reflective voice. You can expect to generate two to three creative nonfiction pieces. The instructor will provide feedback on up to 10 pages of student writing (typed and double spaced) in addition to pieces shared and workshopped in class. Course packets will be available for a copy fee on the first day of class.

For more information and to register, visit the Loft.

Introduction to Creative Nonfiction - 8 week class at the Open Book, Minneapolis
Tuesdays, Oct. 12 - Dec. 7, 7:30 - 9:30 p.m. (No class Nov. 23)

Memoirist Patricia Hampl says, “I don’t write about what I know, but in order to find out what I know.” Writing is an act of discovery. In this class, you will have an opportunity to write and reflect, go deep into your writing to find out what you know. You will develop an eye for seeing the true story in your writing. Assigned readings and writing exercises will be focused on telling details, creating a sense of place, developing strong characters and strengthening your reflective voice. Students will have an opportunity to receive supportive, constructive feedback from class members and the teaching artist through weekly sharing and one workshop.

To register, please visit the Loft.

Blogging: A Tool for Writers - Open Book, Minneapolis
Saturday, Oct. 9, 1 - 3 p.m.

In this one-day workshop, we will explore the benefits of blogging for writers. We will discuss issues of audience and voice, and how to use a blog to help build your platform and cultivate a readership for print publications. Participants will leave with a better sense of how a blog can help further their writing careers and with a page of blog resources and tips for how to start and maintain a successful blog.

To register, please visit the Loft.

I’m also taking registrations for my winter online Mother Words class, which will begin in February, 2011. And there are still a few spots left for the Mother Words Retreat, which will be held February 24-27 at Faith’s Lodge. For more information about either of these, visit my website or contact me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

a few things

I feel as though I’ve spent so much of the summer juggling and fretting that I’ve forgotten to enjoy these last months. I have been snappier with my girls, who are both in high-parental-involvement stages—Zoë is potty training and fully embracing all of the defiance inherent in being a two-year-old; and Stella is suspended somewhere between a little girl and a big girl, a transition that makes her moody and sensitive. One moment she’s totally fine, the next she’s furious, in tears, and yelling, “I’m just so frustrated, Mom! I hate you!” (That’s my favorite.)

But as is always the case, I feel much better if I take a moment and list all of the things in my life for which I’m grateful. So here is my list.

I’m grateful for:

• the way Stella purses her lips in concentration when she’s working on a new craft. (She can sit for over an hour and make a friendship bracelet or a beaded ornament.)

• the way Zoë whips off all her clothes a dozen times a day, then shouts, “I’m naked! I’m naked!” as she shakes it around the room.

• Stella’s pride as she heads down the sidewalk on her new skateboard, with more grace and balance that I’ve ever had. (Seriously, the girl has mad skills. She could be a serious surfer if she put her mind to it—and if we lived somewhere that wasn’t landlocked.)

• the way Zoë packs up all her plastic fruit and vegetables in a bag and announces she’s going to work at the “shoppy cop” (coffee shop).

• that I can run again. (I’ve spent hours this summer in the chiropractor’s office and it wasn’t helping—or helped a little and then stopped helping—and finally last week I started taking those little packets of EmergenC of all things, and my hip and leg feel so much better. Electrolytes! Magnesium! Selenium! Potassium! I could have run for an hour the other day.)

• D.—I have to give the guy a shout out not only for his surprising garage-building skills but also because he’s my biggest supporter, arranging his schedule so I can finish my revision by Sept. 1

• Led Zeppelin—Okay, I’ll admit this is a little strange. But can I tell you how much I’ve loved rediscovering those guys this summer? There is nothing like running down a country road in Northern MN; open pastures on either side of me, a cloudless sky above me, and “Ramble On” blaring on my IPod. (Who am I? No idea, no idea. I’m just going with it.)

• My parents, who have spent even more time with the girls than usual so I can log in as many hours at my computer as possible. I know it can be exhausting, but they keep offering. They keep showing up, and I’m so grateful for them.

• My kick-ass friends, both in person and virtual. I so appreciate that you’re always close by, always listening, always ready to make me laugh. Thank you!

I’d love to hear what you’re grateful for. Leave a list in the comment field or link to your own post. And thank you, as always, for reading.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

a proposal, a platform, and what to do if you don’t have them

The thing I love most about blogging is connecting with other readers and writers (and mothers and friends). I recently “met” Lisa Groen Braner, who wrote The Mother’s Book of Well-Being and has a lovely essay in the latest issue of Brevity. Lisa is also a writing coach who helps nonfiction authors polish their book proposals and get their work into the hands of agents and publishers.

Book proposals. Urgh. Just the words may make you cringe. (I already wrote a whole book and now I need to write a proposal? What?) Or you may be asking, what the hell is a book proposal?

Well, Lisa has a great set of interviews at The Court Street Literary Collective in which five authors discuss book proposals and author platforms. (I especially love Dinty W. Moore’s thoughts on platforms: “Platforms are great for those who have them – politicians, pundits, celebrities – but in my humble opinion, there is too much focus on platform right now. Good books are about the writing, not about who wrote them.” Amen. Amen!)

But the truth is if you’re writing memoir or narrative nonfiction, at some point you will need to write a book proposal (in which you will need to describe your platform). So check out these interviews and, if you need help writing a proposal, check out Lisa’s website, Book Dreams.

Monday, August 9, 2010

deadline, oh beautiful deadline

It’s been a whirlwind around here. D has been rebuilding our garage with his dad and brother, transforming it from a run-down shed (what a neighbor boy accurately called it once) into a real garage with electricity and a garage door and a ceiling actually high enough for a garage door opener. They have been sweating it out in the back yard for over a week now, and I’ve been spending long afternoons with the girls, grilling hamburgers and watching them jump in the pool, splashing water on each other until their laughter transforms into whining and crying and hair-pulling.

I have also been writing and revising and writing and revising in my one-and-a-half hours each morning, trying to finish the memoir by September 1. (I realize that I’ve moved my deadline. Cut me some slack.)

The good news is that I finally feel like I’m moving the book forward. I’m past those hard middle chapters and I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t get me wrong; I still have pages and pages to write, but for the first time I feel as though finishing it is a real possibility. I’m getting close. Which is why it’s frustrating that I don’t have more time to work on it right now.

But maybe it’s better this way. I’m out the door to the coffee shop as soon as I wake up, and each morning I’m excited to dive back into the narrative. Maybe the fact that I need to write 65 (or 70?) pages in the next three weeks is exactly the kind of fire under my a** I needed.

Hello, fire. Meet my a**.