Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happy Birthday to the Baby

There's a slight possibility that last night I had one of those nervous breakdown cry fests brought on by the fact that this tiny little chocolate-covered mouse is officially FIVE-YEARS-OLD.

I mean, that's practically a teenager - or at least that's how it feels to me, knowing just how quickly the last several years have flown.

It doesn't feel like I've been blogging about my kiddos for very long, but when I look back at the first handful of posts, like the one where the above picture came from - when Annelie, only a couple months old, had her first taste of chocolate (and clearly enjoyed it) - yeah, those sappy mom tears come a-gushing.

Today Annelie woke up, saw her room full of balloons (a Hopkins family tradition) and couldn't fly out of bed fast enough. Where was she headed? Why, over to the measuring wall so she could see just how much taller 5-years-old is from yesterday's 4-years-old, of course.

Turns out, 5-years-old is at least a centimeter taller - but that might be because Gracie is the one who does the measuring.

Happy birthday, to my baby! I'm definitely looking forward to the entertainment she has in store for me in the years to come!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Like Mother, Like Daughters

The other day, Gracie came home from school and said, "Hey, Mom, can I use the computer? I want to work on my book. It's going to be a chapter book."

Naturally, I died from happiness, and ran to my computer, and opened up a Word doc just for her.

A couple minutes later, Gracie called out, "Hey, Mom, how many chapters does your book have?"

"Thirty!" I said back.

She raised a brow at me and snorted. "Well, mine is going to have one hundred chapters."

And ten minutes later, she was asking about where to send her book because she was ready for publication.

Naturally, I died laughing. Especially when I read her story.


Chapter 1

Once upon a time there was a princess who was feeding her cat. The queen said you have to let the dog out. So she let the dog out.


Not quite a hundred chapters...

"You know, it looks like an awesome start, but maybe we should call this a practice story, and you can make it a little bit longer?"

So Gracie added another sentence - this one about a toilet.

Annelie has been wow'd by the whole idea of writing a book, so the other day, while Gracie was in school, she said, "Mom, can I write a book, too?"

"YES!" I promptly shouted with glee, and ran to open a Word doc just for her.

About ten minutes later, she called out, "How many pages is your book, Mom?"

"About two hundred and sixty," I called back.

She laughed. "That's not much. My book is going to be one thousand pages."

And a few minutes after that, she was ready to send in her story for publication - competition for me as it's a Sleeping Beauty tale, like mine.




"What does it say?" she asked me.

"Um. Why don't you read it to me?"

So she glanced over her words and said, "Once upon a time, Sleeping Beauty was home and she ate a poisonous apple. She died."

I was pretty darned impressed. And also very amused, because this is how Annelie reads. She doesn't quite have the concept of spaces-between-words figured out, and though she can read fairly well, she sounds an entire sentence out as a long string of phonemes, thinks about the sounds for a second, and then relays the sentence as it should sound - with spaces and everything.

(kids are fascinating creatures)

After I told her that her story wasn't quite ready for publication, she decided to add another story to her Word doc - a Cinderella tale. This time, she made it as far as WOSEPONETIM (Once upon a time) before she cut straight to the dialogue.



("What's wrong, Cinderella?"

"I am too tired."

"You should take a break.")

and then a little further into the story....


("Woop woop, this is getting awkward!")


All I have to say is it's a good thing I have two computers, or else I might never have a chance to write again.

Also, I'm pretty sure "Woop woop, this is getting awkward!" is the best line of dialogue EVER WRITTEN.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fun with Negatives

After having my mind blown upon trying out THIS (thanks for the link, Alyssa!) I decided my kids would have a ton of fun with it, too - using photos of themselves.

(And for those of you who don't want to click the link, but still want to know what's going on here - well, I'll tell ya)

Stare at the colored dots on Annelie's nose for 30 seconds. Then immediately look at a solid white sheet of paper/wall/ceiling/whatever and blink rapidly.

Yeah, how cool is that?

Wanna try it with photos of your own?

Well, if you don't have a photo editing software that will do it for you, you can download Photoscape for free (which is what I use when editing photos - just google it for the download link) and then play around like so:

(red, green, blue)

(and if you mess up, the UNDO button can be found on the right)

Save, print, email to everyone you know, and enjoy!

And that's all, folks!

Have a great Wednesday!


Monday, January 23, 2012

The New Toothless Girl

Annelie has been on a mission to remove her first wiggly tooth for several days now. As soon as she realized it was more than a teensy bit wiggly, she's been plotting ways to pull it out - most of them involving tying various toys to pieces of yarn and walking around the house with them dangling from her mouth.

"Why don't you just wiggle it?" I suggested.

"Well, I am," she said back. "But first I'm going to tie something heavy to it so it will just fall out."

She has walked around the house with a Barbie dangling out of her mouth. A Littlest Pet Shop puppy dangling from her mouth. A sparkly Snow White dress-up shoe... Her wheelie suitcase....

"Mom, please can you tie my string to the door and then slam it shut?" she begged.

I said no.

"Daddy, pleeeeeease can you tie my string to the door and then slam it shut?" she begged.

Will said no.

Well today, after much plotting and planning and dangling junk from string tied to her mouth, she decided to give the wiggling a go, and about an hour later, came running up to me yelling, "GET A LOAD OF THIS NEW TOOTHLESS GIRL!!!"

Then she struck a mighty fine pose to show off her brand new gap.

And there you have it. My new toothless girl. Pretty dang cute, if I do say so myself!

Happy Monday, folks! I hope your day is just as exciting as Annelie's has been!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Junie B. Jones and the Mother Who Needs to Give Her 6-Year-Old A Little More Credit

When I opened up my beginner reader's first grade reading folder to find a chapter book inside I rejoiced for approximately .0007 seconds. Then I had one of those slow-motion noooooooooooooooooooooooooo! moments you often see in ridiculous sit-coms.

You see, Gracie has been super resistant to reading chapter books.

"They're hard," she says. "And boring."

Gracie is a slow reader, and I have learned the hard way that when you mix something difficult with a six-year-old who resists doing hard and/or boring stuff, you get a major headache. My headache has been growing ever since school started, when we learned that, though Gracie finds reading hard and boring, she's good enough that her teacher wants her reading chapter books at home... yet coaxing Gracie to read them has been close to impossible, especially as her folder has only had short picture books.

Hence the rejoicing, because Gracie knows that she has to read the books in her folder without question or complaint (this is how she earns TV time, after all).

The slo-mo nooooooooooooooooooooooooo! came after I saw what book her teacher packed in her folder as her first required chapter book.

Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peeky Spying.

Here's something to know about me: I am SO not a fan of Junie B. Jones books. The kid's a complete trouble maker. She's mean to her friends. She lies and spies and says the snottiest things to her mother. But that's not the worst of it.

The kid can't speak a grammatically correct sentence to save her life.



I expected the worst for my poor beginner reader who struggles with The Magic Tree House books. How in the world is Gracie supposed to get through a chapter of Junie B. Jones a night in order to meet her reading requirement? How in the WORLD is my six-year-old reading beginner going to master the English language when her example says "runned" instead of "ran?"


Well, Gracie and I sat down and began chapter one, and I learned a little lesson called: Give the 6-Year-Old a Little More Credit.

In fact, give her a LOT of credit, because Gracie can totally handle grammatically incorrect sentences. Not only that, but reading this book together has shown me that her brain automatically corrects Junie B's errors, and I have to actually stop her and have her read things again because she doesn't read them as they're written on the page.

In the first chapter, Junie B. is on a mission to spy on her sleeping brother, but she finds him a little boring, so she blows on him, and tickles his nose, and screams at him to wake up until he does.

Then "he started crying very loud. And Mother runned into his room. Only she didn't even see me! 'Cause I quick hided in the closet!"

... except Gracie read it as: "he started crying very loud. And Mother ran into his room. Only she didn't even see me! Because I quickly hid in the closet!"

- enter flabbergasted jaw-drop HERE -

She didn't even stumble over the words.

"Well, that was very well done..." I said. "But you need to read it again, because you missed a bunch. Junie B. didn't say 'quickly' or 'hid' and that doesn't say 'because.'

Gracie was stumped. "But that's wrong," she informed me.

And then we had a little conversation about character voice.

- enter excited nerdy-Mom moment HERE -

Gracie is reading Junie B's story just fine. Not only that, but she's laughing all the way through. And now that we're close to done with it, her reading speed has definitely improved.

I'm not going to lie - I've laughed a few times, too. But mostly because of moments like this:

Gracie [reading]: "First, I looked where the chocolate milk was. Then I looked where the pasketti and tomato sauce was."

[laughs and laughs] She said pasketti!

ME: And what word should she have said?

GRACIE: BA-sketti!

ME: ..... you mean ..... spaghetti?

GRACIE: Oh. Yeah. Whoops.

[laughs and laughs]

Turns out I'm not a complete Junie B. Jones hater after all.

Hope you're all having an awesome Tuesday, folks!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Flashback: Short Story Loving

It's Friday, folks, and about time this blog had another flashback... so today the file cabinet of curiosities has coughed up a little gem dating all the way back to 1992, when 11-year-old Marisa discovered the world of short stories.

The other day I mentioned that I'm a short story lover - LOVE them. Well, I've had short stories on the brain lately, more so than usual because on Marisa's Big Fat List of Goals for 2012 we have:

#4 - Write 3 short stories and post them on my blog
(ie be a big brave girl in public)

Which isn't a huge deal, other than the fact that having my fiction read by anyone other than my trusted crit partners makes me feel like I'm standing in front of the world in my undies - which isn't something I imagine I'd enjoy.... but as I'd love to be an author with a whole world reading my stuff, it's about time I get over my issues - or at least make sure I'm wearing super cute undies!

When I was in 6th grade, my English teacher passed out a short story for dissection, called Midnight Snack by Diane Duane. (part of an anthology called Sixteen, which you can find HERE)*

Unicorns, people, UNICORNS.


Aura - baby unicorn by R. Wake
SovaeArt on Etsy

I love unicorns.

I do.

I really, really do.

But not only that, Midnight Snack was a YA urban fantasy, which tickled the fancy of middle school Marisa more than any other genre (yeah, things haven't changed much), and sparked a whole slew of urban fantasy stories in my notebooks - though none about unicorns because I was still too much in love with the ones in this story to attempt writing unicorns of my own.

And because of this story, I fell in love with the entire world of short stories. See, before this one I had only experienced the short stories found in our class textbooks - stories so boring I didn't even read them all the way through, and would instead turn to the back of the book where the longer stories, such as Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, could be found.

(oh man, I remember reading that one in class when I was supposed to be doing anything other than secretly reading ahead in the textbook, wiping and wiping and wiping at my never-ending stream of tears)

Not too long ago, I picked up the short story anthology Zombies Vs. Unicorns -

- Which is filled with awesome short stories by a whole slew of my current favorite authors, like Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Carrie Ryan. (I love zombies, but I'm totally Team Unicorn)

And I liked it - it was a quick, fun read.... but not a single unicorn story grabbed hold of my heart quite like Midnight Snack did.

Short story lovers out there, tell me, what stories hold your heart? I'd love to know!

*if you google it, you can find it on teaching sites online - though I hope you'll pick it up from your library or purchase it for your bookshelf, too!

Happy Lucky Friday the 13th, folks!

As I was born on Friday the 13th, I refuse to believe it is anything other than lucky... despite what this previous flashback might tell you.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Writing a Hot Mess (in 14 years or less)

"Born from the Mess"
by jb0xtchi on Etsy

The story I'm working on now is one I've been working on - well, on but mostly off - since I was 18. It began as a short story - my best friend from my high school days said to me in the summer right after high school, "Hey, I found a short story contest and the theme is 'Magic.' Let's enter!"

To which I replied, "OKAY!"

Well, me and short stories aren't really friends. Oh, I love them - reading them is a bit of an addiction of mine - but writing them is a different story. Every short story idea I have tends to fizzle into nothing or blow up into something much bigger (like my newly finished and currently being queried book, SLEEP, which began as a short story almost 3 years ago)

After about 6 pages of writing my 'magic' short story, I knew I had something much bigger on my hands. So, in usual Marisa fashion, I grabbed a notebook and worked on it through college when I was supposed to be listening to my teacher's lectures. I even brought it to England with me when I studied abroad, with big intentions of finishing it and finding a crit group and finally getting my dream of being a real live WRITER started.

(but the cute Welsh boy I met was too distracting, and I only managed a couple pages before I packed my book up and decided to finish it when I got home.... But then came love, and then came marriage, and two little babies in the baby carriage...)

I picked the book up for NaNoWriMo in '08, and my awesome blog readers cheered me on as I wrote the world's sloppiest pre-draft. (Which blinds me whenever I attempt to read it, because it is just. so. AWFUL, and the only fate it deserves is being stabbed with the tooth of a basilisk)

And then I picked it up again during NaNo '10. And ... well, the first couple chapters I managed to write weren't AWFUL, but they certainly weren't as good as I wanted them to be.

So here I am, back together with these characters who I have LOVED for almost 13 years - and their story, which has changed a lot in 13 years, but which still follows the same magical backbone I imagined for it when I was 18.

And I figured that all my experience in the last couple years would make all the difference - that I would pick it up and suddenly know exactly how each scene needs to go, and exactly what every character is thinking and saying when they are tossed together in the bathroom of a taqueria, or the basement of a crack house (two of my favorite scenes. Yup).

But writing it now makes me feel just as awkward and stumbly as I was when I first attempted to write it back in 1999. Which has brought on all the "WHY do I think I can actually be a WRITER?!" angsting I have been doing for years now.

-insert head banging against keyboard HERE -

Today my friend Dianne Salerni, author of We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks 2010) and The Caged Graves (coming from Clarion), blogged about her latest project, saying:

"If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple years of writing, it’s that my first draft is usually a rambling, maze-like monstrosity. Kind of like the Winchester Mystery House in California."

And it made me think that maybe I'm not too terrible at this after all. That maybe it's just the way writing is for some people. I thought I accepted long ago that I'm not a writes-a-book-and-snags-a-top-agent-in-six-months-TOTAL kinda gal, a la Stephenie Meyer.

I'm more a writes-a-rambling, maze-like monstrosity kinda gal, like Dianne. Only instead of accepting that part of my process, I've been pretending that I have, but really angsting hard.

There's a little thing called the internal editor that I have been advised to turn off while drafting. But I also think the internal self-hater needs to be turned off, too, because that's the one that keeps me from turning the hot mess I've been working on for years into something finished I can pass on to my crit partners - who I KNOW will help me turn it into the shiny, queriable gem I believe, deep down, it will one day be.

In the words of Joseph Chilton Pearce, "To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." - a quote I love, love, love. Not a quote I always live by, but hey - it's a new year.

And maybe if I lose my fears, if I can turn off the internal self-hater who tells me often that I'll never make it as a published author, I just might have a finished first draft of this sucker - in 14 years or less!

Only then will this hot mess be the story that made my fingers itch to write when I was a teenager, with visions of magic dancing through my head.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Books, glorious books!

I found this vid over at Writing and Rambling, and love it.

In my opinion, this is even better than the singing, dancing food scene in Beauty and the Beast!

(I think the 3D version coming soon to theaters needs an extra scene where Beast's lustworthy library comes to life, what do you think?)

Happy Tuesday, folks!


Friday, January 6, 2012

Outta the Mouths of Babes.8

ANNELIE [points at alphabet above the bug's head] In my picture, my bug is thinking about the alphabet. But sometimes he makes a mistake and thinks of the wrong letter, so he thinks about an X, and then thinks about the right letter.


At back door - cat outside, waiting to come inside from the rain.

ANNELIE [face pressed against the glass door, talking to cat]: Say the magic word, first.


That wasn't it. It's two meows.



In the kitchen

ANNELIE [holding recorder]: When I blow my recorder, that means hurry up. [blows recorder]

ME: How about when you blow the recorder, it means thank you for my snack, Mom!

ANNELIE [thinks for a sec.] No, it just means hurry up. [blows recorder]


ANNELIE [waves wooden stick over my head]: This is my magic wand. You get to make a wish and my wand will make it come true, so what's your wish?

ME: I want to be a magical fairy princess.

ANNELIE [looks at stick, brows furrowed. Shakes stick]: Hold on. I need to plug in my magic wand and recharge the batteries. I'll be right back.

[runs off with stick]

ME: ....?

ANNELIE: Okay. I'm back. [shakes stick over my head] Now, what is it you want?


GRACIE [holding picture of an angel]: Look, I drew an angel. I even put that thing over her head. I don't know what it's called, so I call it the I Don't Know.

ME: It's called a halo.

GRACIE [excitedly] Oh! So now I know! Instead of calling it the I Don't Know, now I can call it the I Do Know!


Okay, that's all the fun for today. Have an excellent Friday, folks!


Monday, January 2, 2012

JanFebMarNoWriMos - Let the Writing Begin!

Self Starter Necklace
by Lisa at The Empty Nest

At the start of November, when I was super bummed about not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, a few of my writing peeps who did not do NaNo this year either - or who did but now want to finish those books - were chatting about taking the months of January, February and March to write a book.

And so JanFebMarNoWriMos was born.

The rules are simple: Write a book (or finish another project, if that is what you need to do) by the end of March.

That's it.

And the other day, when I was all like, "Yay! I wrote a book and now I'm going to write another one during JanFebMarNoWriMos!" a bunch of other peeps were like, "Oh! I want to do JanFebMarNoWriMos and write a book, too!"

So here we are - 2 days into January and I have read through my unfinished NaNo project from Nov. '10, and am now super pumped to finish it. I forgot that I love these characters and their adventures EVEN MORE than the one's from the story I just spent the last 2.5 years writing. Which hopefully means racing to the end will be awesome - or at least with less head-bang-against-keyboard moments than I had with the last book.

JanFebMarNoWriMos-ers, are you still out there? Who is up for finishing a draft/project by March? Shout it loud and shout it proud!

And of course, you'll have to hold yourself accountable, but if you shout it in my comments, and want me to crack the whip to keep you going to the end of March - especially if I see you tweeting or Facebook status updating non-stop instead of writing - just say so! (although if I'm catching you doing it, it probably means I need a whip cracked, too)

*cracks whip*

Let the JaNo games begin!

*UPDATE - the fantabulous Heather Kelly just let me know there is a site called A Round of Words in 80 Days (best name EVER, imo) where you can have more structured meet ups and whip cracking if you need it - check it out: http://aroundofwordsin80days.wordpress.com/blog/


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