Monday Moment #132: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)


Oh man, my friends. Have I ever dropped the ball, or what?

I promise it's not without good reason. My plate has been beyond...BEYOND full, and unfortunately I've had to gobble up many other things before getting to the yumminess that is this blog. I apologize for that. I hope it will change soon.

When has your character ever dropped the ball? What was at stake?

(An added note: I think the second question is an important one. With Cuppa, the stakes for missing a Moment aren't huge. Yes, I have guilt, especially when someone says, "Hey, where was Cuppa Jolie this week." Or something like that. You don't let me forget that I missed. But some stakes can be far bigger.)

Monday Moment #131: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)



No good, very bad blogger. That's me. Sorry for the inconsistencies lately. I should just say here and now, if it's a three day weekend (Monday being a holiday) there will be no Moment that day. Makes sense, right?But what happened to me yesterday? Honestly, life happened. I ended up with a family member at the ER (all is okay though). That threw my entire day for a loop.

Today is a Monday do-over of sorts. So, there ya go.

I know that in other parts of the country, school started in August, but here in the Seattle area, we just started last week. Yesterday was the first Monday of the school year. Truly, the school year in Seattle should run October to July, because our summer happens in August and September, but that's another subject.

So...the start of a new school year. And for us, it meant sending our oldest girlie off to middle school. *gasp* It's shocking. It was made harder by the fact that she was not at all looking forward to it. In fact, she was expecting her first day to be a no-good-horribly-very-bad day. Fortunately, because her expectation were so awfully low, it was actually all right. *phew* She even told a former teacher that she would give it a 7 out of 10. A huge relief for this mama, and yet, I can't believe she is a middle schooler.

Along with going back to school, there was some good old school shopping, which can be fun and insane all at once. But, one thing I especially noticed as we reached the end of summer was that the kids (and my husband) have favorite pieces of clothing they don't want to part with...no matter how stained, holey, or small they might be. Good grief!

Anyone else experience this? I'm sure I'm not alone.

My oldest has been wearing a pair of fake Uggs (even during the summer) and you can literally pull the toe up and see her little piggies inside. She also has a tank tap that had a small hole along her side that has now expanded into what looks like another arm hole. But does she want to get rid of them, or stop wearing them? NO! I believe this is a genetic thing passed on from my husband. (A little secret...when something gets *really* bad it might accidentally end up in the trash.)

What? What's that? Someone wants to call me out? Okay, fine! Maybe I have one or two things I have yet to let go of myself. So there.

How about your character? Does s/he have a favorite piece of clothing? (Describe it. Why is s/he they so attached? What would they do if something happened to it?)

Monday Moment #130: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)


Here's a question for you: How do you turn one lizard into two guinea pigs?

What? You find that question strange? Oh...or you think it's some kind of joke with a punch line, maybe?

No...it's a little something my children made happen, with a little help from their dad.

So, here goes. This is how you do it. (Warning: you may not want your children to read this post.)

One morning, not long after my husband had left for work, I get a call from him saying, "Open the garage and tell the kids to meet me outside."

This can't be good. You're with me, right? Warning bells.

Sure enough, my hubby arrives with a shoe box which contains a lizard, a lizard that didn't want to take no for an answer (he couldn't get it to leave his van or the road). I don't have to tell you how my children reacted to seeing this clingy lizard, except to say it was the exact opposite of my reaction. I wasn't the one who wanted to keep it.

I had all sorts of arguments for why we shouldn't: we needed to know what it was; if it was safe for the lizard; if we could provide what it need; and oh...the fact that it eats LIVE crickets.


Fred the Lizard

The kids got right to work. Don't let your children tell you they can't research online because mine learned right quick that the lizard, the one which hitched a ride on their dad's bumper, was a Northwest Alligator Lizard. They knew what it ate and what it needed to be kept as a pet. Next step? Call the local pet store to see if they had the supplies needed to keep the lizard. And, even more important, to ask if it's okay to keep it? Maybe it would just be cruel to the little guy.

Pet store fail! They said, "Hey. No problem. We've got what you need. Come on down. Oh...and you'll probably want to get a cricket habitat so you don't have to continually buy crickets."

Oh, joy!

Because I was so excited about this lizard, I thought it was only fair for the girls to fork over their own money for half the costs (and they agreed...I should have requested all the costs). Of course as we loaded up on lizardy needs at Pet Town, the girls checked out the mice, hamsters, and gerbils. Then after the we received the total and handed over $70 (FOR A LIZARD!) my youngest said, "We should've just got the mouse. It was only a couple bucks."

EEEEERCH! Uh...what? Did we not just spend all this time and money for a lizard?

As we loaded up in the car, realizing after all of that we'd actually forgotten to get crickets and meal worms for the lizard, we had a conversation. I had to ask, "Do you really want a lizard? Or if you had a choice would you prefer to have another rodent-pet (we've had gerbils in the past)."

The answer was fast and clear...they wanted something warm-blooded again. (Frankly, I was open to this because it meant no more lizard.)

In we went, stating our buyer's remorse to the nice girl behind the counter. We were able to return all the lizard supplies and now make a decision about what furry pet to bring home: The cute little white mouse with brown spots that was only $2? Or, that fat hamster...he's awfully cute. Another gerbil? Oh, but don't forget the nice girl behind the counter told us how incredibly sweet the female guinea pig was.

Guinea Pig!?!

Seriously, those things are huge. And not $2.

But, okay...let's hold the guinea pig just to check it out. That little black guinea pig snuggled into the girls' chests and made sweet squeaky sounds, and then it was my turn to hold her. 

Really? Why didn't anyone tell me that guinea pigs are so sweet. Not all squirmy and bitey like hamsters and gerbils. Well, there was no leaving without that pig. And on the way home, she was given her name: Charlotte.


Charlotte

And after the girls' Grandma and Papa fell in love with Charlotte, too, and the girls learned that guinea pigs are herd animals and are happier with a friend, Grandma decided she wanted to buy the girls a friend for their new addition. Welcome, Clarabelle.


Clarabelle

And what happened to the lizard that actually was given the name Fred? Well, we released him into the woods next to our house. And, believe it or not, not too many days later a very familiar looking lizard was under my hubby's van.


And that's how you turn one lizard into two guinea pigs.

Kids can be quite good at manipulating situations to get what they want. (Or at least mine are really good at doing it with me.)

What has your character been able to talk a grown up into doing or getting or saying?

Monday Moment #129: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)


Sorry I missed you all last week. I was a bit busy doing the SCBWI-Team-Blog thing, helping to commemorate the 40th anniversary of SCBWI and the summer conference. I hope you followed along on the blog, but if you haven't check it out, it's there for the looking. It was one super special event. And a bit of a dream come true for me.

Whose lap am I all snuggled up on, you ask? Why that's just me and Judy Blume: an icon and my idol.

A giddy me with Judy Blume
(I'm not actually on her lap. She invited me to the arm of her chair.)

She was an absolute highlight for me. Judy Blume was the only reason I was a reader in Middle School. I've never really understood that whole freaking-out thing when someone sees a celeb they love and admire, that is until I was in the presence of Judy Blume. It all hit me; what she meant to me as a kid and what she means to me as a writer. The best part? She didn't disappoint. She's even more wonderful than I could have imagined, and I will forever remember her graciousness.

As much fun as I had in L.A., it was also so great to get home.

But something funny happened this time when my family picked me up from the ferry boat after I arrived back in Seattle. I sandwiched in the backseat of my parents' car right between my two girlies: the best place I could be. After I kissed and squeezed each of them, my youngest said, "You smell funny." Just what a mama wants to hear upon returning home.

So then my oldest gave me a whiff. "Yeah, you smell weird."

I replied, "Well, I probably smell a bit like hotel, and airplane, and train, and ferry with an added touch of Judy Blume (that above picture had only been taken hours before)."

Later, when I finally saw my husband, he said the same. "You don't smell like you."

It got me thinking about personal scents and where they come from: our homes, laundry detergent, foods we eat, and especially the products we use. All of those items that create my scent had changed over the week. The mix was all wrong, and my family could tell.

What are some of the things your character does and some of the items your character uses that create his/her scent (or that of another character your MC is around a lot)?

Monday Moment #128: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)


So much going on I'm not even sure what Moment to tell you about today: I'm gearing up to leave for the big SCBWI Summer conference; I'm preparing to welcome over 200 during an Orientation just before the big event kicks off; We've been figuring out chore schedules and allowance for our girlies; My youngest girlie and I just ran in her first race, a one-mile fun run; and, we turned a lizard into two guinea pigs (now that's a story...and probably one that requires more time than I have today).

So...now to decide. What should today's Moment be?

 I choose...FUN RUN.

And it was so much fun.

At the end of this last school year my girls had a to do a one-mile run at school. I have horrid memories of running one mile for academic fitness tests and I usually did anything and everything to get out of them. My oldest girlie (11) feels the same way. But there was something about that one mile and running that my youngest (9) really enjoyed.

She ran it at school in just over 11 minutes. When we talked about it later, I mentioned how running is sport you can compete against yourself in, and she was into it. A summer goal became improving that one-mile time. We got her a great pair of running shoes and started to hit the track two to three times a week.

Then came this Saturday; a community in our area had a Whale of Run. Skylar and I got up early and drove the 45 minutes to sign up and run; a really different experience without being on a track and running along side all those other runner.

Skylar and her proud Mama pre-race.

We were sort of left in the dust as most took off a bit too fast. Of course they started to hit a wall a quarter mile in or so, but we kept on our pace. A pesky side ache slowed us down a bit but we pushed on. Skylar was determine and I tried to keep her motivated. I think she really enjoyed the fact that about half-way along, we started passing other runners.

It was hard to tell how our pace was comparing to our typical runs. Skylar had so far improved her time by quite a bit. Her best time, 10:28. So as we rounded the corner and could spot the finish we pushed a bit more. Then the clock came into view, and we could see a 9! A 9. Could we possible get our time under 10 minutes?

We made our final push to the finish and I believe we crossed that line right about 9:55. What an amazing improvement. And, So. Much. Fun.



Skylar after the race. She now says her favorite number is 186.

I was (and still am) a proud Mama. And even if she didn't say it, I know Skylar was proud of herself. And she's looking forward to another run in the future. She even said, maybe next year we can run the four mile. Amazing.

Now, I'm not a runner. I may be a fitness-loving freak. But I'm a gym rat. But let me tell you, I will run to the ends of the Earth with that kids. Pure joy. Chokes me up a bit.

It seems like there are so many questions that can be asked about character from this experience, so feel free to come up with one that might work best for your character's situations, but I'll ask this one:

What is one activity your character finds common interest in with an adult (parent, mentor, family member)? (Could certainly be positive or negative.)

Monday Moment #127: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)


Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

We've made it home from our big MT road trip, after a very long day on the road yesterday. But man...re-entry is painful. So much to do. So. Much. To. Do.

There are so many reasons why one (or at least me) would prefer to still be vacationing: the chores of everyday life, playing catch-up, and since I'm returning to the Seattle area...missing the summer sunshine! (Come on, Seattle. It's summer already.)

That said, there's almost always a reason to LOVE returning home. For me: my bed. Ah...I slept so well last night. I'm already looking forward to visiting it again tonight.

When your character leaves home, what about returning makes them the most happy?

Monday Moment #126: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)


Holy Big Sky Bungle. I thought TODAY was Monday. I'm so off my game. Well, hopefully I can get pass as I'm on the road and yesterday was my 13th wedding anniversary. Ahhh!

I'm blogging live from what my husband has dubbed Grammapalooza. Although, he doesn't have it quite right since it's more like a Grandparentpalooza, but the former sounds better. It's also been affectionately called The Silver Hair Tour.

We are currently trekking through the Big Sky state, visiting our six lovely grandparents (yes...SIX). I will say we are blessed to have so many of them still in our lives. They are all in three different cities in Montana, so we are driving a big triangle under this great big sky. First Missoula then Great Falls finally ending up in Livingston where we'll celebrate my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. Double Ahhh!

So, I won't stay here long, but share a few things we've done and seen. One grandma visited, kissed, and loved on. A full day at the Splash Montana, where no sunscreen was enough to keep our Seattle skin from getting pink. Some sweet fawns relaxing and chasing and nursing (vigorously). An ice cream cone from the famous Big Dipper Ice Cream, but the licking had to be brisk in this heat. So far, nothing but delight.

One mention of something I found funny: As I drove into Montana there was suddenly big splatters on my windshield, sounding just like rain beginning to fall as it often does in the Seattle area. I had to tell myself, that's not rain and ask (in my own mind), What is that? It was very BIG bugs reaching an unfortunate state of splat on my windshield. Ha!

Has your main character ever taken a road trip? If so where, why, and what kind of different and wonderful experiences did they have?


Monday Moment #125: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)


Last Monday, the 4th, blew up on me! Not in a bad way. But in a busy Fourth of July way. Hope your day was as fun as mine. I was hoping to at least type a, See ya next week message. But I couldn't even get that much done.

Being with friends (ones that are like family) on the Fourth got me to thinking about nicknames--especially nicknames for family members. I don't think there is a family anywhere where every person goes by their traditional title: Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle, etc. Somewhere along the line a nickname comes along and it usually happens in a very organic way.  (In my experience, a forced nickname never works.)

In our family's case, I have dear girlfriends that have been Aunties to my girls since Day One. That said, when my oldest was barely two, instead of calling my friend Auntie Roz, she became Uncle Roz (I think because she had been around uncles more than aunties). On top of that, Uncle Roz had a handsome boyfriend (who later became her husband). His name: Gabe. So when our oldest spoke of them, they became Uncle Roz and Uncle Babe, which was too cute.

The girls with Uncle Babe
On another family note, one of our youngest's first words was Sis, and she's called her big sister that ever since. When she was young if she was asked, "What's your sister's name?" her answer was, "Sis." And still today, to hear her say he sister's given name doesn't even sound right. She will forever call her Sis (and she's the ONLY one who does).

And, now about personal nicknames? I had a couple: Squirt and JD (both were my dad's nicknames for me). As for shortening my name, I didn't like it (still don't). I never wanted anyone to call me Jo. The only person who ever did, or ever I ever let, call me Jo was my little brother.

What nicknames are in your character's family and how did they come about? Does your character have any nicknames?