Monday, April 25, 2011

Snake Eyes

You never know what you’re going to get at the animal shelter. Based on who she grew up to be, our last cat (RIP Stimpy!), came from a long line of domesticated couch potatoes. This new kitten? Not so much. I think her parents weren’t even one generation out of the jungle—they must have been straight-up feral. For instance, she refuses a water dish, preferring to take her water from what she considers “natural” sources (like the vase of greenery above) and her razor blade claws open up my kids’ skin so often I’m afraid the school will suspect them of being cutters.

A couple of weeks ago, new kitty woke us up “playing” at 4 am. She was running around the room like crazy, scratching around under the bed, meowing, and just being generally annoying. Later that day – out of exhaustion from the kitty night antics –I lay down to take a short nap before we had to go to a party. Once my head hit the pillow I heard a little scritch scritch sound coming from my bedside table. In an act of great bravery, I called my ten year old daughter in to open the drawer. “I think something’s in my bedside table,” I told her, adding, “open it slowly, please!” in a wavering voice. She pulled the drawer out an inch and we saw all we needed to see. Beady eyes. The kitty had dragged a rodent in to our bedroom, where it had sought safe haven in my bedside table, chewing nervously on a paper snowflake Juliet had made for me. Naturally, we screamed and slammed the bedside drawer closed so hard that it forced the little guy out the back of the drawer. By this time I had only a few minutes before we had to be at a dinner party, so we decided to let nature take care of the problem: we threw the cat in the room and closed the door. It was the first time in my life I’d ever left the house hoping to see a dead rodent in my bedroom upon my return. 
Five hours later, we tentatively opened the door. On the bed was the kitty, sitting like a proud sphinx. At the threshold of the door was the poor furry creature, laid carefully on its side without any mess. That night I slept in my daughter’s room and the next day was devoted to deep, Clorox-fueled spring cleaning.
I’d hoped this was a one-time deal, but last night we experience rodent redux. This time we were able to corral the two into the bathroom. I had to sandwich my head in between two pillows to drown out the horror of mouse screams (yes, they scream). I felt great guilt at what was my second active hit on a rodent inside the house. But this time the cat got bored and mewed at the door after awhile. Scott went in to find the mouse doing skateboard moves up the half-pipe of the tub, completely unable to get enough purchase on the porcelain to get out. He put the poor thing outside where it ran back to the enormous hedge that surrounds our house. This hedge is like something out of a Beatrix Potter book, large enough to house all kinds of birds and squirrels and mice. A veritable buffet for our feral kitty.
Personally, I prefer my cats to be less “stalker beast” and more “lap warmer with attitude”. You roll the dice with pet adoption, and this time we came up snake eyes. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

SCBWI LA - Anyone?

I just registered for the 40th annual SCBWI conference in LA. I missed it last year and really missed it. I went in 2008 and met many, many amazing writers I still keep in touch with, and again in 2009 where we all reconnected. I do hope many of them will be there this year!

So, anyone else going?

Monday, April 4, 2011

On Getting Unstuck

See this tiny room? That’s what I was supposed to share with a stranger. The other bed? That would be where the photographer is standing in order to capture the charming shot. So when I showed up to the Asilomar Writer’s Conference and saw this, I bailed. I immediately turned around, walked outside, and looked at Hotwire for a room in town. With that kind of short notice, all I could get was a place in an old 40s drive-up motel, the kind that in less touristy towns might rent by the month. But it was mine, all mine! The funny thing is, I spent no time there. The conference hooked me, from breakfast through the last glass of wine well after midnight.

Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes all you need is an idea; sometimes all you need is energy. And sometimes you get a conflation of both. For me, that happened at Asilomar.

The speakers were great – I think this is the first conference where I attended every session. Like a seed feeling for the warmth of the sun on the damp earth above it, I soaked in everything the various authors, Illustrators, editors, and agents had to say. But it was the evenings that provided the heartiest sources of inspiration for me. After the last evening session, groups would congregate in different areas. Both nights I ended up sipping wine and eating Moose Much in the fireside lobby of the very lodge where I was originally booked to share a 76 square foot room with a stranger. Shame on me for not staying - the commute would have been far easier up two flights of stairs than across town. 

It was here that 20 or so of us gathered and talked about what we were working on, what we had in the pipeline, what we dreamed one day to do. I heard some amazing success stories and some cautionary tales, and I got some great advice without even asking for it. Some conferences are magical that way. But perhaps most important, I came home with the first 16 pages of a new manuscript. This was something I had been thinking about for months, but had neither the energy nor the inspiration to start. I love this project. I feel like I was born to write this book. In fact, I did a middle school visit last week and instead of reading from Prophecy of Days, I thought I’d try out the new piece. To my utter delight, they were riveted!

So, if you have a chance to attend the Asliomar Conference, I highly recommend it. You get to listen to speakers in this beautiful and historic conference center: 

 And you will take a million photos of Pacific sunsets that will all disappoint because nothing can really capture that kind of magic:

And you will meet authors like the humble and brilliant Newberry Honor recipient Cynthia Lord, who will remind you that being a writer is incredibly difficult but ultimately satisfying.

And perhaps, if you are stuck as I was, you might just get some mojo back…