And just like that he was potty trained…

Okay…I don’t know how I did it, but it appears Daniel is potty trained.

Yesterday, he finally learned how to do #2 in the potty. I wasn’t actually there when it happened. Looks like my hubby had the pleasure of teaching him. That’s good, because I sure didn’t know how I was going to teach him that.

So let’s see. I got the potty at the beginning of August. Started the real training around September 20. So roughly a month of preparation and about a week of actual training.

Dude. That’s not bad…I’m not really calling him completely potty trained though. He still needs to learn how to go to the bathroom on his own. So we’re still in process…I’m just being really casual about it.

I’m still trying to figure out how, exactly, he figured it out. What were his mental processes?

Wait a minute–Mommy is saying pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty. That yellow stuff is pee-pee. She wants me to pee-pee in the potty. Therefore, instead of peeing into a diaper, I can now pee into the potty. What is she–nuts? Don’t she realizes that the universe will explode if I did that?

She’s making me sit down…I don’t want to…ack! Pee is coming out! The world is coming to an ENNNDDDDD!!!

Hold on. The world’s still here. Mommy’s still here. And pee-pee is in the potty. Hmmm….

Let’s try it again.

Now she’s making me wipe it off the floor. What does the woman want? Oh. Put it in the potty. Hmmm…pee-pee. Potty. Pee-pee. Potty. Pee-pee goes in the potty. Oh boy! Snackies!

So…if I say ‘pee-pee’, she’ll take me to the potty and I’ll pee in the potty. Does that happen all the time? Let’s experiment. “Pee-pee, Mommy!” Not that I have to go or anything. I just want to see what happens…

“All done potty?” Hmmm…she doesn’t look happy. It must be that when I have to pee-pee, instead of going directly in the diaper, I must hold it until we get to the potty. Hey. I can do that. I was holding it all day when she didn’t put any diapers on me, and when they wanted me to pee that time in that hospital in California. But I didn’t do it, no sir. So they had to stick that cath–TELETUBBIES! THOMAS THE TRAIN ENGINE! HAPPY THOUGHTS! HAPPY THOUGHTS!

So let’s see. Wait…there’s this sensation…in my pee-pee area. It doesn’t exactly hurt…it feels like, like I need to pee! Yes! I feel the need for pee. Don’t go in the diaper, Mommy said. I’ll hold it, and tell Mommy I need to pee. “Mommy! Pee-pee?” She must believe me because she’s moving my hand away from my pee-pee area. Hmmm…I don’t remember doing that. It must be an automatic response. She’s taking me in. We’re pulling the pants down….she’s pointing me to the potty…so that must be my cue not to hold pee in anymore.

Eureka! Pee-pee goes in the potty! It makes sense, now! Mommy’s so happy! And I’m happy, too! This is easy! I no longer have to wear a diaper! I can be just like Daddy now! Hey, if I can accomplish this, then the whole world can be for my taking! I can dominate the entire continent. Entire cities will fall to my brilliance! I will be the KING OF THE WORLD!!!

Ooo! Elmo’s on!

Actually, I suspect his process is more like:

Diggle diggle DIAPER blahbythomas digglepwane PEE PEE dadadadad POTTY mmamamdiggle blah blah weese POTTY dadad PEE PEE? POTTY digle mommyelmo tv GO PEE PEE backdiggle aheeego awldun cookiedaughter eh socks? socks? tocks? POTTY, oh okay WORLD DOMINATION diglge uhoh takeeena takeena diggle ELMO.

It’s gonna be a brave new world….

More Debut Novels Word Counts

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: 96,626 Not as much as I thought it would be.

Prince of Dogs by Kate Elliott: 202,450 I know–not a debut novel; in fact the second book in her Crown of Stars series. But Amazon only had the stats for this one.

Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier: 214,238 I didn’t read this one.

Murder of Angels by Caitlin Kiernan: 114,847 Another book I didn’t read.

And Robert Jordan, the king of epics? I couldn’t find a word count for the first book in the Wheel of Time, but The Eye of the World does have 814 pages. Which puts its word count around the same as Tad’s: around 1,400,000 words long (but come on, this is Robert Jordan after all…compared to his later books in his series, his first book was a novella…)

So what did I learn from this frankly unscientific sample? I should stop worrying about the word count of my book and just write the $@*! thing.

Word Counts can screw a first time writer up

As you can see, I did a little fine-tuning of the sidebar yesterday. One thing I really wanted to do was fine-tune the novel meter so it can show how many words I’ve written on Willow so far and how much should be my goal. In order to do that, I needed to count how many words I’d written so far, not an easy feat, seeing that most of my chapters were spread out in separate folders and had multiple drafts up to about Chapter 15 or so. I had to pull all the relevant drafts and put them in one folder on my computer. Then, using the handy word count all chapters feature in RoughDraft, the word processing program I use, I proceeded to count all the words in the 25 chapters I’d written with just one click of a button.

The total I got back: 149,052. Wait a second. That can’t be right. I did a little fine tuning and clicked again. Same figure came up. 149,052.

Now, most fantasy books are supposed to be around the 100,000 to 150,000 range. Longer works are considered epics, which means they spill over the trilogy mode into the four or five book realm. If that word count is right, that means that I’ve already hit the 150,000 mark, which makes no sense because I know for the fact that Willow isn’t finished. I’ve considered it more about 25% completed. Which means that I have one huge book on my hands–I may be looking at–what, maybe a 500,000 word book when it’s over?

500,000 words? Whoa. That blows. I may be screwed with this book before I even finished it.

But maybe I’m overreacting. So I decided to pull down a couple books from my shelf. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey was her debut fantasy novel (she went on to write three other books set in the same world). It has 96 chapters, roughly 900 pages long, and it has word count of 1,553,093! Tad Williams War of the Flowers (not his first book, I know, but it’s what I grabbed this morning) has only 43 chapters, but is 816 pages long (with a glossary) and comes out to 1,473,256 words! Hmmmm….

So maybe I’m jumping the gun here. The ‘supposed’ fantasy word count doesn’t seem to apply to what’s actually in print out there. I need to see more word counts on debut novels, but my kid’s up, so I better get him out of bed. I think, however, as far as the whole word count thing is to not worry so much about it. After all, this is the first draft. I know that the count will change when I get to editing it. If I’ve written about 149,052 words spread out in 25 chapters and I consider the book a quarter finished, then I can put up a temporary target (I know the real target will be when I consider the book finished). But to give myself a rough estimate on what the book looks like (in paperback) I’m going to go ahead and set the target to 1,000,000. A nice thick book, I know, but if you make your story interesting, if it’s well-paced and pull readers in…they’ll devour that book up like a warm, savory stew with hot fresh bread and…

Hmmm…I better get started on breakfast.

Pay Attention When they say ‘Tornado Warning’

First of all, before I say anything, obviously we are fine.

The potty training was stressing all of us out, Daniel, me, even my hubby who stayed home to work. I decided it was time for a change of venue and slapped a diaper on the kid, deciding to take him shopping and do some other errands so hubby can work in peace.We got as far as the library when, just as we were heading out the door, an announcement came over the PA system, urging us to go to the south side of the basement–a tornado warning has been issued for our area.

Now, being a Chicagoan, I’m no stranger to tornado warnings (had it been a tornado watch, I’ve probably would’ve freaked out a little more), and like a typical Chicagoan, I view them with a vague annoyance similar to being told it’s Groundhog Day–it’s there, people on TV like to remind you about it, but frankly you go about your life like any other day. In this case, I was a bit unhappy when they corralled us into the basement. Daniel loved it, though. To him, it was a grand adventure and a way to meet lots of babes. We stayed down there I think about 15 minutes before they let us up again.

Now you would think that common sense would tap me on the shoulder and say, “LaShawn, those clouds still look bad. Maybe you should stay at the library a little longer.” But I didn’t heed it. I was quite hungry, and I wanted to do grocery shopping so I could get home in time to cook dinner (yeah, another nono, shopping when you’re hungry. I was breaking a lot of taboos yesterday). So I strapped Daniel in and drove off, right into a long line of traffic.

As we slowly crawled along, common sense finally screamed in my ear, “Hey, that one huge cloud is moving awfully fast. And you hear that thunder? Don’t you think you better pull over? Now?

As I stared at the cloud, ruefully I realized I should’ve stayed at the library. But you don’t think about these things until you’re thick in the middle of it. I couldn’t go back to the library because we were just inching along on the street with hundreds of other people who were probably having the same sinking feeling I was. And there was no way we would make it to the store. I was finally decided to pull into a restaurant’s parking lot–thinking that Daniel and I could take cover there. We inched and inched, and finally crawled into the lot.

Just as the storm’s second wave hit.

Ever been in the middle of a horrific storm? Instantly, the world turned washed out, milky grey as sheets of water pounded over the car, rendering the wipers useless. We were trapped in the car…I did consider grabbing Daniel and running out–the restaurant’s entrance was just a few feet away–but the hail put a kibosh on that plan. Over the din of the ice, I yelled at Daniel, “Look Daniel, hail!”

“Hail!” he called back gleefully. The kid was having a blast. He never been in a car when this happened. I, on the other hand, was praying, “Lord, don’t let this car flip over. Please! Please!” It was terrifying…and strangely exhilarating at the same time to see all this awesome power roar over us.

I think in five minutes, or ten, the rain slowed down, I could see the restaurant again. Water was everywhere, pouring out the building’s gutters like a waterfall, creating tiny ponds in the middle of the street. Cars plowed through before realizing they were a lot deeper than they looked. I looked at Daniel and said, “Forget shopping. Let’s go home.”

Taking side streets and a lot of detours, we finally made it home just as the sun peeked through the clouds as if to say, “Hey, sorry about all that, but here–a marvelous sunset!” It was pretty, but I didn’t really spend time looking at it because I was wondering how to get to our house–our street had its own miniature lake, spreading from the entrance and sweeping over several driveways, including our own. I had to park at a neighbor’s down the street (who delightfully invited us in–thanks, Janelle!) so I could wait for the waters to go down.

My hubby had a grand time, though. He and a couple of other neighbors strode into the waters to make sure the drains didn’t get clogged up with debris–but I think hubby would’ve done it just to walk around in the 3 feet of water. All he needed was a large dog frollicking beside him. Sadly (or perhaps I should luckily), we don’t have a dog.

In a couple of hours, the water in front of our house disappeared.

Somewhere, there’s a lesson from God in all this. Certainly I am immensely humbled that he kept us safe throughout it. However, I know that all over the world, there are storms and floods worse than the tiny taste we got. Still, the fear I had was genuine. Next time, I’ll pay a little more attention when I hear a tornado warning.

There is one bright side to all this: While at the library, Daniel told me, “Pee pee.” I hustled him to the bathroom, where he actually did it in the big potty. Later, he did the same thing when we are at the neighbor’s house. And his diaper remained dry! It’s clicking! Despite my frustration and head-banging, somewhere in his tiny mind, he’s realizing that peeing in the potty is good.

Good thing he didn’t say “pee pee” in the car when the storm broke over us. I would’ve turned to him and said, “You and me both, kid. You and me both.”

That’s Supposed to be Elmo?!?!

Yesterday was pretty rough for Daniel’s first day of potty training. To give you an idea of what it’s like, I want you to go ahead and pee in your pants. Go ahead. Do it. It’s all right. You’ll be fine. Just pee in your pants. Go on.

Won’t do it, huh? Going to the toilet is ingrained in us (unless you’re drunk and stumbling about at two in the morning and can’t find a bathroom. I sure hope no one reading this had that experience–and before you ask, no I didn’t either.) But that’s tantamount to what I’m teaching Daniel to do. For two and a half years, we’ve taught him not to pee on the floor, or in the bath, or on your uncle’s lap, but in a diaper. And now, I’m suddenly telling him to pee in this tiny little potty, or in this huge toilet. The rules have changed and Daniel doesn’t like it one bit (although today, he’s no longer freaking out whenever pee pours out of him. Now he views it with a growing fascination)

Regardless, yesterday afternoon, both of us was fried and frustrated. But then I learned that Kevin Clash was coming to Barbara’s Bookstore in Oak Park to promote his new book My Life as a Furry Red Monster, and he was bringing Elmo with him. For those of you who don’t have children, Kevin Clash is the voice of Elmo. He’s also a 6 foot black guy with a deep voice. The blurb in the Tribune’s book section said that he was coming to read passages from his book and do a signing. I’ve always been curious on what made Clash decide to create Elmo, and because Daniel’s a toddler, he automatically loves Elmo. So I figured I drive down and give Daniel a little treat.

Well, I wasn’t the only one to think this. When we got there at 7:30pm, the store was packed. Everybody and their mama came down to see Elmo and a long line snaked all through the store, filled with babbling, sobbing children. There had to be at least 200 people there. I had to wrestle through to see Clash, manipulating an Elmo puppet on his hand, in the center of the store. They decided not to have Clash read and just have Elmo greet the children, one at a time. I looked at the crowd and thought, “Naw…it isn’t worth this. Daniel can see Elmo on TV anytime.”

But then, Daniel caught sight of Elmo and his eyes lit up. “Elmo!” And at that particular moment, the next child coming up to Clash completely freaked, grabbing his mother and sobbing on her arms. Clash, who had been speaking in a normal voice, cried out as Elmo, “Oh, no! Don’t cry!” And he made the puppet wrap his red furry arms around the boy, laid Elmo’s head on the boy’s head, and cry in sympathy. This caused the boy to stop and stare at Elmo in surprise.

That impressed me. Hey, he really is good with kids, I thought. So I stayed.

The good thing about a kids’ signing is that unlike adults, some kids don’t have the patience to wait and wait until they meet their hero. They get tired, hungry, whiny and what not. When they do, the parents shrug and finally leave, towing their screaming kid behind them. So the crowd slowly thinned out over time, making the line shorter. And the bookstaff did a good job in scattering Elmo books around the store, so the rest of us who had restless toddlers could snag a book and read it to them while we wait. And as I watched Clash, a strange, freaky thing happened. Clash slowly disappeared–oh, he was still there, but it was like he didn’t register anymore. All I could see was Elmo: laughing, hugging, waving to a camera. As he broke off from meeting people to come up to the little girl crying behind us and telling her to, “Don’t cry–you’ll see Elmo soon? Okay? Kiss, kiss!” The girl stared at Elmo in wonder. She wasn’t disconcerted that he had no feet and appeared attached to a guy. For a moment, I had a taste of what she felt: Elmo touched me. Elmo just gave me a kiss. He really does care about me. Elmo is real.

Now that’s a good actor.

Around 9pm, Daniel finally got to meet Elmo. He walked up to him and reached a curious hand out to feel his fur. Clash asked me for his name, and Elmo said, “Hi Daniel!” Delighted, Daniel honked his nose. “Hi, Elmo!” One of the staff took his picture (seeing that I stupidly left my camera at home), then Elmo asked for a hug, and Daniel obliged. I then thanked Clash for all he has done and he replied, normally, “Oh no problem. It’s what I do.”

I don’t know if Daniel will ever remember that he met Elmo. I don’t know if he even remembers what happened last night. Today, I turned on Elmo and just like any other morning, Daniel sat, glued to the TV, and joyously called out, “Elmo!” He doesn’t care who voices Elmo, or that Elmo is just a puppet. All he knows is he cares a lot about Elmo.

And that’s the mark of a true artist.

I think I will read Clash’s book after all…

Edit: You know, I completely forgot that I had a picture of Daniel taken with Keven Clash and Elmo. So here it is for all posterity.

Are blog posts considered previously published?

So I’m facing my first dilemma.

I learned of an anthology that’s publishing essays which deadline is due at the end of this month. As I read their essay topics, I thought “You know what would be perfect? My story on meeting Tad Williams at the Festival last year.” It would be perfect. I know it will work well…

Except I’ve already posted it here as a blog entry. D’oh!

That brings me to my first ethical question as a blogger. Is what I posted considered ‘previously published’? We writers who blog are cautioned on posting stories, poems and other fictional works on their blogs because technically, it’s in a format where millions of people (or in my case, dozens) have the potential to see it. That’s why if you do post a story, you should only do so if you want publicity. Sort of a sample of what your writing is like. If you do want to send it to a magazine, you’ll have to check with them first to see if they’ll accept it.

But nonfiction seems to be a different matter. There are some magazines who, if they like a blog entry, will contact the blogger to see if they could publish it. Writers who advocate blogging say they get ideas from the posts they write. Heck, there are people who published books off of their blog entries called blooks. (And may I add a quick plug here? One of my writing list mates just got hers published. D.S. White’s Age is Just a Number just came out in paperback. Pop on over and check it out–and I gotta say, her website inspires me on how to decorate my own…)

So do the same rules apply? Does that blog entry hurt my chances on submitting it to this anthology? I did some quick research on the net here and here, asked some friends of mine, and the general consensus seems to be: yes, I should treat it as a previously published article; however, if you substantially rewrite the article, it should be able to stand on its own as a new article. That’s basically the same with any nonfiction article you write–it can be written a number of different ways and each can be considered a new article.

So I dug out my journal and compared it to the blog entry I wrote. Immediately I already see there are lots of errors in the entry. It wasn’t the 2nd annual Festival this year, it was the 4th. I didn’t meet Tad on Sunday–it was actually a Saturday. Blog writing is so raw because you’re writing it on the fly (and if you’re like me today, writing it at 7am before that first jolt of caffeine kicks in). That’s what I like about it. But it’s also embarrassing to see so many errors in that posting I’m almost tempting to take it down. It’s not like scads of people will suddenly wonder where it’s disappeared to…just only a couple of readers who commented on it. But if I did that, just take the posting down without mentioning it, well, those couple of readers will still know. And so will I. You don’t want to alienate readers when posts start disappearing for no reason at all.

That’s why I’m mentioning it here right now, in case, I actually do take it down. The actual essay would be vastly different from what I posted online, but I still feel uncomfortable with so many errors in it. I don’t want to become another William Frey. But leaving it up is also, it’s a form of protection for myself. If a writer–a very unsavory, unscrupulous, writer–stumbles across this post and decides, “Hey, I’m going to take this post and submit it as my own.” I can have this post as a backup, saying. “Nope. All that false information is still mine, and I got the timestamp to prove it!”

And as for the anthology, it looks like they accept previously published material anyway, so I shrug my shoulders, refill my teacup, and get cracking on editing that essay.

Thoughts after the Midwest Literary Festival

Before I ponder this past weekend…got an email today from Mytholog saying that they’ve accepted my poem, “The Autumn Queen”. This will be the second piece I’ve had published there. Very nice to come home to that. I’m building up my writing portfolio slowly but surely! Once it’s online, I’ll put up the link to it.

So now I’ve been to the Aurora’s Midwest Literary Festival, I sit back and ponder: what, exactly, did I learn from it?

1. Bring business cards. Whenever I ask a writer something, they whip out a card. On Saturday after the children writer’s workshop, cards were flying everywhere–from the literary agent to attendants, from the writers to the attendants, from the writers to the literary agent. Debbie Taylor handed me hers and pointed out she got it at Vistaprint. My hubby actually got some business cards printed there, to, but until now, I felt that I needed to be further in my writer’s career in order to get business cards. Well, that time has arrived. I’ll have to start looking into get some printed for myself.

2. Engage in conversation with everyone. I met a lot of interesting people, writers and non-writers. I hung out so much at the Twilight Tales tent that the people there recognized me. I think I made a lot of contacts that weekend. Most of those people I may never see again, but others stood out to me, like the woman writing the rock and roll novel. I now wish I got her contact information–I would be very curious to know if she ever gets her book published, and what she thought of the process. Just connecting with people who are slogging along just like me made me feel all warm and gushy inside…oh, wait, no. That’s the chocolate croissant I ate…

3. When submitting short stories, think outside the genre box: I’ve been so bent on telling people that I’m a fantasy writer. However, going to the Fantasy/SciFi genre workshop made me wonder about that, since basically most of the stuff I write also have literary, romance, and maybe just a touch of horror. So when I look up markets for my stories, I shouldn’t just stick to a couple of fantasy magazines and leave it at that.

4. Write. Write. Write. Write. Write. ‘Nuff said.

There’s more that I’ve learned, but I need to get started on writing. After all, if I’m planning to pitch Willow at the next Festival, I’d better finish it first.

Midwest Literary Festival ramblings…Part II

And it continues…

11:05am I tear out of church hoping to try to make the tail end of the first workshop, Working with Computers. I only made it for the last five minutes, but turns out, I needn’t have rushed. The woman I sit next to gives me a rundown of what the talk was about, mostly about how to use Excel to organize submissions and outlines, and how to backup documents. Seeing that I customized Outlook for my task list/submissions tracker, and I use Writer’s Cafe for outlining, I’m way ahead of the game. I did miss out on her thoughts of blogging, but she has her talk on her website, so I plan to check it out.

12:30pm I hasten to the room next door for Jane Friedman’s How to Publish a Novel. Jane Friedman is the editorial of the Writer’s Digest books, including the yearly Writer’s Market, so she’s a Very Important Person to listen to. Although my Willow book is nowhere near ready for the stuff she teaches, it’s still good stuff. Most notes I’ve ever taken at this Festival.

1:15pm While waiting in line to ask Ms. Friedman a couple of questions, I finally talk to this guy who’s been roaming about the Festival grounds. He’s in all black: black shirt, black backpack, black skirt, black socks, black boots. I’m pretty sure the skirt is bait just to talk to him, so I bite. “Why the skirt?”

“Kilt,” he corrects. “It’s because I’m Scottish.” He then proceeds to plug the Novelist’s Bootcamp he’s holding at the Schaumburg Library next week. Seeing that I was at that library last week, I instantly make the connection. I take a card and while I don’t make promises to attend, I do make a note to check into it.

1:30pm While waiting for the next workshop to start, I wander to the Twilight Tales tent. They know me by name now. Chat a few minutes, then I follow the sound of steel drums and calypso to the music stage. I browse the book tent next to the stage and buy a cookbook.

2:00pm I’ve been waiting for this workshop all day: Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy, is there any space left on the shelf for speculative fiction? When I find the room, to my disappointment, none of the writers are exclusive Fantasy writers. They dabble all over the genres. Worse, it looks like most of them are from the Short Story panel from yesterday. The room is pretty narrow and cramped–I have to crawl under a table to get to a seat. And the classroom sits pretty much on the street, right across from the music stage, so steel drums are drifting in. I steel myself for a lousy time…

…but instead have tremendous fun! None of the surrealness is present in today’s panel, and though there’s still a lot of wisecracks, it’s obvious it’s due more because the panelists know and are comfortable with each other, instead of grabbing for laughs (I’m still trying to scrub the severed dog’s head image from yesterday). I’ve also learned two very invaluable things–that every story could have different genre elements–if you get rejected in one genre, try another. And that authors, even well respected and famous authors, still deal with rejection (had a long talk about that, in fact). It made me think a lot on what I classify as my stories and how I can expand my marketing of them. Out of all the workshops, I think this one is the most beneficial.

3:00pm A rumble of thunder shakes the room. We look outside to see clouds hovering over the sky.

3:07pm Another rumble of thunder. The calypso music falters, then stops. Some people start pulling down the tents outside. Some people sneak out of the workshop, frowning at the darkening sky.

3:22pm I’m deep in conversation with the panelists and another writer. He’s a stay-at-home father of two children (4 & 2) and he wants to know how to balance writing with finding markets. I tell him how I juggle stuff with Daniel while the panelists rattle off websites and mailing lists. We’re all writing down notes and talking about writing with children running about, how to do as much as you can and keep at it.

3:27pm I stare in dismay from the college lobby at the street being pelted with rainwater. The next workshop’s in a couple of minutes. I thank the panelists for all their insights, and they plug Twilight Tales, where they are members. Okay, okay. I get it. I’ll check it out. I hoist my book wrapped in its plastic bag over my head and make a mad dash for the building across the street.

3:33pm I’m wet and freezing cold, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying Writing About Music: A Conversation With Jim DeRogatis. Actually, the workshop isn’t really about writing about music per se–it’s more a guy doing a Q&A with Jim DeRogatis, music critic of the Chicago Sun-Times and co-host of Sound Opinions, which used to be on WXRT and is now on Chicago Public Radio. And I confess, the only reason I came to this workshop was just to listen to him. He’s awesome. Learned a lot about the Chicago Music scene, Dylan, Kanye West, the slow death of radio, the evil overlord record companies, and Underground Christian Music. I didn’t even know there was Underground Christian Music. You know what would be even cooler? Underground Christian Worship Music. That would be so awesome!

But what really blew my mind was the woman across the aisle from me. She’s an older black woman and she’s asking all sorts of great questions: How do most garage bands deal with sudden success? Does Dylan ever reveal his ‘true’ self, or is it all just a joke to him? I am overawed by her questions and talk to her afterwards. Turns out, she’s writing a fiction book on rock and roll. Is that cool or what?

5:15pm Due to the rainstorm, the streets are prematurely cleared–nothing remains but the sandbags that anchored the tents and scattered Festival papers. It’s quite anti-climatic, but I still feel somewhat good. And as I dash between rainbursts, I’m already planning on what to do next year.

More thoughts to come…

Midwest Literary Festival Rambles…Part I

9:33am Stupid Amoco BP. What the heck is this prepay thing you have to do now? Trying to get my card to work at two pumps makes me storm inside the store in exasperation to prepay the cashier and tell the lady at the food counter that I want a breakfast panini. 15 minutes later….I’m still waiting for that panini when the lady comes from the back. “Oh gosh! It’s still in the grill!” Burning my mouth on hot cheese, I get to the Festival just in time for a traffic backup into the parking garage.

11:20am After some frantic scrambling, I find the first workshop in Waubonsee Community College: Who Does What in the World of Publishing? fifteen minutes before it ends. I still get a lot out of it, for instance, learning a bit about literary fiction vs. commercial fiction and how bloggin can be used as a marketing tool. Good stuff.

11:35am Mouth is feeling pretty dry, but I first head over to the Twilight Tales tent to see if my friend Chris is there, as well as check out some of their stuff. The folks there were quite eager to tell me about themselves and urged me to browse the books they have. I’d be more impressed once I get my tongue to stop re-enacting last summer’s drought. I’m jonesing for some hot tea mighty bad.

11:45am Find a corner bar that sells hot tea for a buck. Mmmm…hot tea….

11:55am Juggling my styrofoam cup and the festival schedule, I pause to enjoy the jazzy sounds of the Papo quartert playing on the music stage. With three electric guitarists and a saxophone/egg player, it transports me to an alternate world where I play bass for the all-girl band “Unbelievably Pregnant”. This gets me thinking about bass players in general and how, according to a Kids in the Hall episode, they always get short-shafted.

12:00pm I wander back into the college to peek my head into the Finding Your Voice track, but I heard stuff like that before, so I wander back out. I decide to amuse myself listening to various authors read from their works at the Twilight Tales Tent.

12:07pm I break down and actually buy a couple of things at the Twilight Tales Tent.

1:00pm Still no sign of Chris.

1:16pm Getting hungry.

1:22pm I go get a brat, but the foodstall is out of brats. Won’t get any more for fifteen minutes. Seeing that all I have is four dollars on me, I decide to wait and read On Writing Well by William Zissner.

1:30pm Still no brats.

1:42pm The brats finally come. I stuff my face.

1:45pm I notice at the tent next to me, a few people go in and out, chat with the guy in a casual blue shirt who pours them a glass of wine and offer appetizers. Jokingly, I ask if they’re free. The man said, “Sure! Why don’t you come over once you’re finished eating?”

1:46pm I saunter into the tent and chat with the man in the blue shirt. Turns out that he’s the mayor of Aurora, Tom Weisner. We chat about how long the festival’s been taking place and his communication officer comments on the free city-wide Wifi (“I got Yahoo! This rocks!”) He pours me a glass of Zinfindel and I sip on it while nibbling a chocolate covered strawberry.

2:15pm I head into the North Island Center across the street from the college. This is where I had my coversation last year with Tad Williams. Inside, swarms of people migrate to tables where scores of authors sign their newly purchased books. The writer inside me hops up and down in a caffienated flea dance (Authors! Authors! Authors! Authors! Authors!)

2:30pm I sit in on the Writing for Children workshop. Quite digging it because there are two, count them, two black women on the panel, a picture book writer and a literary agent. I learn quite a lot about the children’s writing market. Later, I come up and talk with the women, plus the moderator. I even get to pitch my Walking Boy story to the agent. Her response: “Send it to me marked ‘requested materials’.” I leave grinning from ear to ear.

4:00pm I go into the Short Story panel.

4:22pm I ask a simple question about character vs. plot driven stories and all hell breaks loose. Fists shake in anger. Curses fly through the air as the panelists argue with each other. When they start comparing Casablanca to Armegeddon, the moderator throws up her hands. “Come on, people! We gotta get back on track!” I shrink in my seat, rethinking on asking them on how to start a short story.

4:45p I ask it anyway.

5:00pm I sit in the foyer, my mind turned to mush. A lady comes up to me and says, “Are you the one who asked about the character/plot driven story? Great question!” I can still hear them swearing in my head. I decide to head home for the day.

5:17pm I’m driving around downtown Aurora, trying to figure out the one-way streets. I realize that I’m swearing under my breath…

More to come…

Early Morning Musing before I head to the Festival

Bees circle around my boy.

He knows about bees because he sees them a lot in our Dr. Seuss books. But this is the first time he is confronted with their lumbering, yellow striped bodies as they hover around him and his fire engine pushcar. Daniel’s amazed and delighted. “Bee!” He calls out to me.

“Yes, bee,” I reply, frozen in midlunge to grab him away.

But Daniel doesn’t know how to fear bees. But he also doesn’t blindly grab at one. He stands perfectly still, watching as the bees hover close, their feelers waving, inspecting. Then, they give a collective shrug and fly off to cluster on the white starbursts of my Chinese Chives.

My son says, “Bye-bye, bees!” Then, he runs and actually leaps off our patio onto our sea of grass. Hardly a cause for concern, because our patio is at ground level, but the fact that my son treats our lawn as his own swimming pool gives me another reason to marvel him. First, this kid shows me how to behave around bees, not by screaming and flailing my arms, making a stinging imminent, but remaining still to showing them: no, I’m not a flower. Move along…move along. And then, to leap into our lawn, putting all his childish joy in his legs and hurling himself into the last bit of summer, taking advantage of the sun and blue sky and the warm air scented with a grassy onions.

I want to leap through life like that. I think God commands us to leap into life like that.

Daniel, who still has trouble with the mechanics of straight jumping up-and-down, squeals and runs to the patio again to try out his newfound skill. But our neighbor then chooses to come out on his own patio (much higher than ours). Daniel spies him and decides to greet him by lifting up his shirt and showing off his diaperless bottom. “Hi!”

A son and a moon on a warm summer’s day. Ah, life is too full of bliss.