It rained Wednesday. It rained last night. It’s supposed to rain a lot more today and very possibly for several more days in a row. Typically, by February 28, we Californians, especially those of us who live in a rain belt in the Santa Cruz mountains, are talking about 40 days and 40 nights, about building our own arks, about which animals we’d leave off (yes, the mosquito, and don’t even tell me you wouldn’t). All the recent California Facebook posts, though, are about the lovely smell, the sound on the roof, and the hope for some snowmelt. So, for today, as I look at the very wet ground outside my office window and see the next layer of clouds clustering together, I thought I’d give you five of my thoughts about rain this week.

  1. Sometimes I think that gray and green and brown, the colors of my sky and trees this morning, is my favorite color combination ever.
  2. If you lay with your ear on a pillow, the rain running down the rain gutters plays little echoey percussion riffs against your ear drum.
  3. On Wednesday the rain came with some strong wind, and now long curls of Eucalyptus bark are scattered along little road and in our courtyard. Can I tell you how much I love this? I haven’t seen any koalas yet, but I’m still looking.
  4. Alice doesn’t yet know what to do with the rain. She figured out the cat door a few days before the rain started and pretty much fell in love with roaming around our hillside. Really, how many times can you sniff the same vinca vine? I’ve also seen her get SO much more nocturnal, literally sleeping all day, then evening to early morning, going in and out the cat door, checking that we’re still here, going in and out…She’s a happy cat. And then the rain came. The first morning, she came out with me for a few minutes, but meowed in an affronted way as though I hadn’t told her it would be wet. Now, when we open the door, she studies things for a while, eventually choosing a few minutes outside, but not venturing too far from the shelter of the house. This morning, she literally blew up against the front door on a gust of wind, kind of Mary Poppins-like. Another adventure for the kitty.
  5. Heavy rain at 2:00 a.m. sounds very different when 1) you are the mother of a not-yet-driving son and 2) when you are the mother of a driving son who will be getting back from a choir performance sometime that evening and driving home up up a very wet mountain with lots of other tired, wet drivers. It’s still a lovely, cozy sound, but there’s that extra film of worry. Cynthia Jaynes-Omololu said it perfectly on Facebook this week: “I now get to be the parent who worries when their teen is out with the car in the pouring rain.” Parenthood layers onto everything.

If you live somewhere that winter means rain, not snow, what are you thinking about the weather this week? And if you live somewhere that it means snow, I’m sending hope that our increase in rain somehow means a corresponding decrease in the white stuff for you!

Drum roll, please…drumroll

Ruth Donnelly! I owe you a book! Please email me at beckylevine at ymail dot com with your snail mail address, and I will send off the Sleep Book to you!

Thanks for playing, everyone.

  1. Naps sneak up on me. Like when all I’ve done is picked up a book, sat down on the couch, coerced the cat to curl up in my lap, and then…Boom! Out of nowhere, I’m snoozing.
  2. Naps grind my productivity to a halt. Oh, sure, yes, dreams are restorative and rest is good for my brain cells, but seriously….I’m not even reading that book I picked up.
  3. Naps can’t be attractive. Even when I’m totally out, I have this lurking sensation of my mouth hanging open and…well, let’s stop there. So far no one in my family has yet snapped a pic and waved it in my face. They know better.
  4. Naps make a mockery of my choice to eschew narcotics and heavy drinking. Because when I wake up from a nap, I am groggy, slow, and stupid. Refreshed? Rejuvenated? Totally false advertising.
  5. Naps don’t take me anywhere new. No falling asleep in the middle of a black-and-white tornado and landing in a Technicolor world and “borrowing” ruby slippers from a squashed witch for me. Not that I don’t love my own place and time, but, hey, an adventure would at least justify the post-nap tiredness.

What about you? Are you pro-nap or anti-nap? Leave me your answer with at least one reason in the comments, and I’ll enter you in the drawing I just now decided I’m having. What will one lucky commenter win? A copy of Dr. Seuss’ Sleep Book. Never read it? Well, get started on your to-do list now, because once the book is in your house, you may never be able to stay awake again.

We’ll make this short and sweet. You’ve got till Monday night, February 24th, and I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday. Ready? Set? G–zzzzzzzz

So I sent one picture-book revision off to the critique group and got back some great feedback. (As per usual.) That picture book and one other are pretty much at the word-choosing, fixing, and-maybe-someday-polishing stage. I have one more pb that I want to bring up to that point, too. Then I will sit with them all and bring up to yet the next level. But I want to get the major revisions on all three books done and behind me.

catch a star

Hey, I can dream.

Anyhoo….

I sat, and I thought. And I sat, and I thought. And I got an idea. And I typed the idea and thought some more and typed some more. I asked myself questions. I typed some possible answers. I saw a path. I started thinking in threes. I got some threes. I looked at the notes file, and I saw that it was good, and I moved onto the actual next draft.

I wrote. Fast. Top speed.

bombI know. I should have seen it coming.

I think the idea is still sound. I think the basic threes are still valid. They’re not the problem.

It’s the words.

I love writing. I really do. And I know I can make this better. I will make this better. All I can say is, though, it’s a good thing today isn’t Valentine’s Day. Because this is one story that wouldn’t be getting any chocolates from me.

Why not, right?

So 5 things I loved this week.

  • My husband and son for being my Valentines whether or not they admit, accept, or enjoy it. I don’t think they’ll turn down the chocolate.
  • My cat, whose eyes pretty much light up like flashing, neon ***LAP*** signs when she sees me sit down on the couch.
  • My critique partners, who have been one of the most important pieces of my life for anywhere between ten and, OMG, almost TWENTY YEARS.
  • People who are living through, like…the WORST winter of their lives and aren’t throwing any hate at California. At least, you know, not on Facebook where I can see it.
  • Everybody who has ever written a book that they thought they were either writing for someone else or were sending out into a big world of unknown readers, and whose book ended in my hands, touching my heard and brain, and–really–being just for me. Or who is writing that book now. You know who you are.

heartkey

In January, I wrote a review of Jeannine Atkins’ Views from a Window Seat and talked about how motivated I was to turn back toward my picture book revisions. I was so inspired from reading about Jeannine’s focus on sitting with a story, with its characters and its words, all at different stages but always with the same sense of giving the story time and room to reveal itself.

As I get back into my revisions, I’ve been working (hard) to stay with that inspiration, to remember how I want to do this. I’ve pushed away self-criticisms of how long I’ve been working on each of these stories. I’ve stuck in metaphorical earplugs to shut out the noisy thoughts of how much longer I might still be working on them. I’ve (tried to) put a lid on all the fantasies about what will happen when I do get them done. And I’ve spent a lot of time in non-story files, typing in thoughts as they occurred to me, listing questions for which I didn’t yet have answers, and then just thinking about those thoughts and questions.

Yesterday, while I was working on one of the revisions, actually at the point where I was changing words and sentences around, pulling the threads of the action and dialogue a little closer around the theme/purpose/point whatever, I heard a small, but solid thump. And I looked at what I had left to do in that revision, at least before I sent it off to my critique group for the nth time, and it was a lot less than I’d thought. Things had, without my realizing it, become more connected and cohesive. The pieces of the story had moved themselves into the right spots, and the characters had picked some good things to do and say. I had, with so much less agony and stress (not with less time or work!), come to the next “ready” place. Off went the critique.

And this morning, I picked up my folder for one of other picture books in the revision pile. It has been several weeks, at least, since I’ve looked at this one, and the first thing I did was read through the latest comments from my critique group. I didn’t open my laptop, not at first. I just read the comments. And suggestions I remember shaking my head at and feeling skeptical about suddenly made SO MUCH SENSE. I had been approaching the story, yet again, with some fear, but because I let myself start slowly and just get reacquainted with the critique comments, laptop unopened, no pen in hand, something else went thump. In a nice way.

This time, it was almost easy not to immediately open the story file. I started a new file called  something like “What to Do With…” and I put in the two most important words that came through to me from the critique. I typed in a couple of questions, then a couple of ideas. Not really even possibilities yet. Just ideas. Thoughts. More to sit with.

Oh, of course, the other voices are still there, talking at me about mythical life deadlines, goals, self-esteem, productivity. But they’re clamoring a little less loudly, their vehemence softened, I think, by my going with Jeannine’s reminder–the reminder that we’re here because we choose to be. We are touching down with a story because at least that little bit in love with a character or a plot twist and because we want to see what we can do with it. Why run away from it? Or rush through it?

Yes, the tortoise eventually won the race. But I think he also enjoyed the feel of the ground under his feet, the sunshine on his shell, and all the sounds and smells of his journey.

Keep moving, keep moving. No big writing discussion or process theories here today. Just a quick little post about, yes…Alice.

As a kid, I remember that we couldn’t leave food out on the counters, or one of the cats would get to it. But, since I’ve “grown up,” my cats have been amazingly non-food-grabby. I’m not saying that the roast chicken smell wouldn’t bring them running, or that their tails didn’t quiver if I opened a can of tuna. In general, though, baked goods were safe, and it was no big deal if the dishes didn’t get moved into the dishwasher before we went to bed.

And then came Alice. Overall, she is a smart little cat. (How do I know that? Well, sure, it’s based on the fact that she loves us and wants to spend time with us and hasn’t yet run (hard) into too many walls chasing the laser pointer. But still…) There are just a couple of things…Like she walks across the front of the stove top. A propane stove. With open pilot flames. She did this once when the kettle was on, with a full flame burning under it. Call it bravery, if you will, but I thought all cats came from the factory with more sense.

And then there’s the food.

  • She jumps on the counter to get her face into her cat food before you’re ready to put it down, either in the bowl, the can, or the spoon.
  • She licks at plates we leave on the counter.
  • She puts her face and whole body into the sink to investigate what’s there.

So far, I  know, pretty cat-normal, if slightly aggravating. The kind of thing you could say to yourself, okay, sure, these would be good cat edibles in the wild.

The other day, though, I caught her licking the beaters from the electric mixer. Which I had been using for…

GLUTEN-FREE BREAD MIX.

Oh, yeah. Because every wild cat LOVES flour and water and butter and egg.

My new kitty and all her charms! I feel like I could start a blog, a la Jo Knowles’ THINGS WE PUT ON FRED. Only we’d call ours, THINGS ALICE STICKS HER NOSE INTO.

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