the journey from writing a novel to ... what were we talking about again?

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Happy New Year!

I don’t believe in New Year resolutions. But I like the idea of a fresh start. Of a blank page to begin in a brand new journal (even if you haven’t finished the other one – because honestly, you aren’t crazy about writing in it because it’s not a Moleskin), of planning new projects, of choosing your word.

I like choosing one word for the whole year. One word to focus on, to remind me daily, as I do my quiet time, that I need to be focusing on what that word means.

2012’s word was ‘kindness’.

2013’s word was ‘more’.

This year? I’m not sure yet. You can’t just choose your word. It is something that needs to be savoured for a few days, kind of like slowly eating a rich, chocolate cake. I have a few ideas. I like the word, ‘exhort’. I like the word, ‘now’.

Last year was hard. I have to say I was not a fan of 2013. Sure I did some incredible things and travelled to places I’ve never been, such as Tennessee and Los Angeles. But it was a hard year. Huge, life-changing decisions had to be made.  A change in perspective had to evolve.  Letting go of more pain and letting go of people.  My goal was to need God more. And did I ever.

We usually start the year with plans (hubby and I).  And yet, we have no idea what the year will bring. We can hope to do another house exchange in NY. We can hope to visit Tennessee again.  We have holidays at Christmas so maybe we should head somewhere warm.  The only thing we are sure of, is that we need to move.

So that’s where I’ve been. Looking at houses. Trying to fix the one we’re in. We almost bought three houses, but they fell apart.  Now we are in a holding pattern for one we really really really want, but need a rural mortgage for. But then we see another one that looks interesting too. I know that we will continue homeschooling through the spring.

And I know I need to fix my manuscript in a serious way. I have such issues with tying up plot together. I had a wonderful Skype chat with my author friend, Valerie and she was kind enough to tell me that my plot sucked. I know it does. I need to fix it.  I need to fix it and let go of the other projects that are teasing me. Or maybe I should choose a different novel to work on. I’ve been tinkering with my own gardening book.  You know, cramming all of my 42 other gardening books into one manual – just for me.  I’m learning a lot about asparagus right now. Fascinating stuff.  But who knows. Who can decide these things?

So. If you happened to wander here, wondering what I just might be up to…. hi.  Are you trying to be introspective too? Are you trying to find a word?

Great. Now I want cake.

listening to: boys fill van with Christmas storage

eating: crackers and cheese

smelling: stupid bread that burnt again


I have so many things to say.

Tennessee was incredible. I know hubby wants to apply for the fire department down there. We had amazing house-hosts, with their gorgeous southern hospitality and their kind, God-fearing hearts.  The food was incredible (ever heard of a Coca-Cola cake? Ohmy-tums needed) and I had my first Krispy Kreme (tums needed), and bacon every morning (more tums – I’m such a baby).  Graceland was… magical.  I now know the hype behind it all.  It’s insane.  This honkin huge house (alliteration!) and you can only see the main floor and part of the basement.  And as you walked the grounds, you would think, wow, this isn’t very private – wait a second. This is totally private. It’s like a compound! Lovely.  I discovered ‘Garden Ridge’ and spent a fortune on Christmas decorations, like a glittery deer head.  And the grocery stores! I discovered ‘Jiffy’, ‘Rotel’ and canned ‘green chilis’.  We found a ‘Chipolte’ (oh my word) and cheap medicine. And it’s so pretty. Especially the Mississippi. I honestly don’t know what I expected. Maybe a swampy river with tugboats and homemade rafts? (yes, I’m a dork)


No rafts anywhere. Just a long strip of beach. I believe that is Arkansas across the river. Apparently, the river is extremely fast flowing and deadly.










This is us in a cotton field. I’ve never seen a cotton field.  And do you know what it feels like? Cotton.  A cotton ball. It’s weird.









And this was lovely time too. We went to the Pink Palace flea market.  There were many gorgeous things to see, and it was about34C. Stinkin’ hot.  And we had funnel cake for the first time. It’s basically dough dropped into a deep fryer. It looks like a cooked intestine on a plate.

This is a great shot of all of us, but for some reason by bottom looks a lot larger than it actually is.  Just so you know.




We visited a bit of Memphis. Apparently, it’s kinda sketchy and one needs to be careful.  As we drove with our hosts, the husband asked the wife if she had packed her gun. She said she left it at home. He told her she should keep it on her at all times.  I asked why they needed it. They answered, ‘Because I’ve never had to use it’. Which is interesting. Definitely a whole different way of thinking.  Not wrong, just different.


And of course it took us forever to get home. It’s a 20 hour drive. We did it in 30. We are very slow. No one should be stuck travelling with us, it’s punishment I’m sure.   We are definitely going back. Maybe in the spring. If they’ll have us… 🙂


Soon, we are going on another road trip. To Tennessee, y’all. Do you know how long of a drive that is? Do you know how long of a drive that is with a child and a neurotic dog?

Oh yeah.

So while homeschooling this morning (what? I didn’t tell you?), I was browsing through Amazon (because it’s awesome) and I started thinking of movies that we hadn’t seen in like, forever, and how much fun would it be to watch them on our drive down? Because I’m taking gravol and giving the kid gravol and making hubby drive the entire time.  So, here’s my list of oldies, but goodies.

1- Snowball Express

snowball Do you guys remember this movie? 1972!  This guy on the cover, Dean Jones, who was in MANY Disney movies, inherits an old beat-up hotel.  So he quits his job and they move in. Of course, being the ever-optimist, he decides to fix it up and make it into a ski lodge.  So you get to see the old-school tow-lines, the old skis, the crazy snowmobile race so he can keep his lodge. It’s fantastic. The way I remember it best, is when the mom checks out the kitchen and opens the stove door. And then she slams it shut. Because there is a family of raccoons living inside.

This is a good movie.






2- Pollyanna

PollyannaPollyanna is actually a novel written by Eleanor H. Porter, back in 1913.  It was made into a Disney movie in 1960, with the ever-famous, Haley Mills.  First of all, the novel is absolutely wonderful. We’re talking, right up there with miss Anne of Green Gables.  It’s wonderful.  Now, you’ll recognize Haley Mills from another movie, ‘Parent Trap’ (am I the only one jealous of their mother, who could tie a dish towel around her waist???), which is equally wonderful.  Pollyanna comes from a poor family, and her parents passed away. Her father was a minister. She is sent to live with her aunt, a spinster if you will, who, by choice, refused to forgive her beau and lives in bitterness. Pollyanna shows up on her doorstep to be taken care of, and her aunt does not show any kindness to her. But Pollyanna wins the hearts of everyone in the town by her cheerful attitude, (there is good in everything!) and the staff at the house.  I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s awesome and you will cry like a baby.





Ok, that’s only two. Posting these photos and whatnot take a lot of work, and I have to pack to go on a retreat. I will add to this later.

Listening to: the boy fold origami

drinking: a disgustingly healthy shake


And more on the SCBWI Conference…

It always takes me awhile to analyze things.  I wish I could be one of those ‘act and react’ people, but when it is serious, I just can’t. For example, if someone starts yelling at me, I kinda freeze, and my head is empty. Like, completely empty. It’s almost like I’m not quite there, I’m just a tape-recorder, listening to everything that person is saying and then later, much later, I start contemplating what they said, dissecting it completely until everything is in their little boxes. This usually means I don’t stand up for myself because it never occurs to me until much later what they were saying.


After a good week of not doing ANY writing at all (with the exception of an 11 o’clock scurry to the library to write out a title for a novel) I haven’t done anything. Why? Well, I’ve been cleaning my house (unpacking is almost done now, so shut up), laundry, rearranging ALL of the furniture in my house so all of my books are in one room (kinda) and creating a plan of attack.

And while I do these things, my brain never turns off and I contemplate everything that I remember from the conference. Later on, maybe in a few more days, I’ll go through my notes and read what these lovely people said. But right now, what stands out the most is WHY I went all the way to LA for a conference.

I wanted to be encouraged.

I do not have a writer’s critique group.  I don’t really ‘know’ any other writers. I mean, I know one, but we write different genres and she’s terribly busy and couldn’t be possibly be interested in reading anything I wrote because she is a big deal and I am not.  I haven’t taken a writer’s class since University because I don’t have time.  Nor could I be on a deadline with homework.  Sorry excuse, I know.

But on the very first day, we were asked to write out our goals.  And mine was encouragement.  To be an encouragement and to be encouraged.

And I’m happy to say, I was.

And sometimes? You just need the teeniest word to tell you how wonderful you are, and then you feel like you can tackle the world again and that your heart and soul are not being trampled on. And all is well.


Listening to: “Anybody Seen My Baby’ by the Rolling Stones (it’s on shuffle – and just shuffled to Elvis’s ‘Are you Lonesome Tonight?’

Drinking: 911 Tea and water

Smelling: fresh air.


Well, that’s a lot of letters!


How to describe the conference? How to describe LA? First, thing’s first.



I had no idea what I had signed up for.  It was awesome. Imagine a really gorgeous hotel, like, reeeeally gorgeous. And downstairs, they have a gargantuan ‘ballroom’.  Chandeliers, comfy chairs, a stage… and it had 1286 chairs. Approximately.  Because I was told there were about 1286 people there.  And the best thing said was that ‘there are 1286 introverts here’.  Which made me laugh. Because already I was beginning to feel slightly claustrophobic.  Which made me laugh again, but I realized a lot of the people there felt the same way. People were sitting on the floors, standing at the doors for a quick escape, standing in the lobby kinda listening in their own space.  It was cool.  So many incredible speakers. And some made me laugh with their words of ‘be brave, write from your soul, you are magic’ and some were not for me.  And the hardest part was meeting people, because after you meet someone, good luck finding them again.  I thought I was the only Canadian there until Saturday night, and I met Debbie, but then I never saw her again. Oof. I have some of their business cards, and I’ve followed them on twitter. And I’ve handed out some of my own cards, but haven’t heard from them.  So, in case they happen to be reading:

Flemishing Dave from Kitchener!!!!  You can e-mail me!!!!


lovely girl I sat beside at lunchtime on Sunday and for the life of me I can’t remember your name and I totally deserted you after we ate because I had to take a phone call, and then had to deal with some issues and then the lunch was over and I never saw you again… I’m so sorry I left you behind!!!!!  Please contact me!!!!


person I totally wigged out while standing in the drinks line and you totally wouldn’t talk to me and then you abruptly left, I’m sorry! Was it my breath?

And to all the authors I didn’t have the guts to say ‘hi’ to. Hi!

I got to meet the lovely Veronica Rossi, who taught an AMAZING class, of which I can tell you nothing.  She had to be the most down-to-earth person I met there.  She was eloquent and encouraging and so gosh-darn-sweet!  I wish I had taken a picture, but I didn’t want to seem a stalker. Now I can only wish that she’ll follow me on Twitter and maybe she’ll catch me saying something witty.

I got to meet the insatiable Brodi Ashton.  This woman is incredibly adorable and soooo funny! And her class was pretty amazing. And I can tell you nothing about it.  And later we took a photo together but whoever took it seemed to have the ‘blurry’ on my iphone of which I didn’t know existed, but we look like two smiling blobs, so I shall keep it to myself.

Best parts!!!:

-when an author or illustrator spoke and they made you cry. But in a good way! Because they were so encouraging and reminded you of WHY you write (well, maybe not YOU, but me).

-the laughter

-the food was incredible

-the new ‘quasi-friends’.  And I say that because I didn’t really make ‘friends’ per se, I am rather shy, but I made ‘acquaintances that will hopefully be friends one day’.

Alright. So in a nutshell, I had a wonderful time, learned lots and now I have a lot of work to do.


Wow.  Sunny every day at 11.  Warm. I can’t talk enough about the amazing food. I ate too much. I couldn’t help it!  The boys came with me but they couldn’t/wouldn’t go to the conference so they went to Six Flags. Three days straight. Yeah.  But they did win me this!!!

isn't he brilliant!

isn’t he brilliant!

Ok, I had honestly hoped that my butt would look smaller in this photo, but it’s smaller than the unicorn’s so I guess it’s ok.

And yes, I did take him home on the plane. How could I not???  We quadrupled garbage-bag wrapped him and then made him ‘checked baggage’.

He’s sitting in my living room.  My son keeps pulling out his nostrils so it looks like he had an accident sneezing. It’s actually really disgusting.









what? Yes, I said Pixar. We got a private tour of PIXAR!!!!!

And I can’t tell you anything about it, because it’s all very secret.

But what I can say? Dude. I need to work there.

Why? Because I met my new friend, Claire up in San Francisco and I met her entire family, and gosh they are the sweetest family! So beautiful and bright and kind and well… we hope to be invited again. Because they are crazy fun. And they made us eat huuuuge sundae’s. So how could we not love them?

And now? I have to work.  Lots of work.


Eating: water.

Listening to: the thunder. And the dog stress out.

Watching: Masterchef. Why aren’t you?

Reading: Just finished, ‘The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things’ by Carolyn Mackler (whom I also kinda met)

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