Summer Vacation: A Few Memories & A Spontaneous Giveaway

Yesterday, my son finished up his sophomore year of high school.

Excuse me a moment…

Anyway…other than an ever-increasing freakout the older my son gets, what the last day of school means to me is Summer. More specifically, summer vacation. Which comes with a load of feelings and memories from my past decades years. Like…

  • Carrying the heavy backpack home from school, loaded up with all the junk from my desk. No, I didn’t have the neatest desk in the world back then. Actually, it looked a lot like my bedroom. If you don’t believe me, talk to my dad. Wait, don’t, you’ll just give him a nostalgia-based ulcer.
  • Reading, reading, and reading. And more reading. And then some more reading. In bed, in my room, with the drape barely opened. It’s only with age and the colder winters we’ve been having that I’ve become anything like a sunshine and warmth fan. As a teen, I wanted a dim, shady cave of a room, where I curled up on my bed with the book of the day. (That’s why there was always a clean path from my door to the bed, well–okay, from the bookshelf to my bed. Again, talk to my dad.)
  • Camp. Not a lot, but at least a week of Campfire Girls’ day camp at Camp Takeneko (I am absolutely positive I am not spelling that right!), with our straw mats that were miserably itch to sit on and singing songs that–if you started me off today–I could join in on and sing easily to the end. And a couple of summers, the big sleepaway camp, also through Camp Fire, at Camp Natoma, where we slept under the oak trees (and the oak worms). We made key chains out of that plasticy stuff–you folded four pieces over (and under?) each other–oh, what IS that stuff called? OKAY, SPUR OF THE MOMENT SUMMER GIVEAWAY: THE FIRST PERSON WHO LEAVES A COMMENT WITH THE NAME OF THAT PLASTIC STUFF (without looking it up–you’re on the honor system here!) wins a copy of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide. JUST BECAUSE.


    We did macrame, too, it being the sixties and early seventies, we swam & showered & had the backs-of-our-ears checked for cleanliness. Good times, good times.
  • August vacations. August. In the summer. Since I grew up near Pismo Beach, and a lot of those vacations were driving ones (luckily, way back then, we could all read without getting carsick), we spent quite a bit of time sweltering through Arizona and New Mexico. Once Hawaii and once Texas. (Tip: Don’t ever go on a double-loop roller-coaster, twice in a row, in 113-degree heat. Just don’t.) We had good times there, and I mean no negativity to all of you who live happily in those regions, but you might be able to guess why I fell in love with Oregon and Washington. And ended up living in NorthernCalifornia.
  • My first summer jobs. I’d give away another copy of my book to the first person who guessed where I got my first job ever, but it’d be just too easy. Yep, the used bookstore in town. (Owned, by the way, by the past secretary of my elementary school, in who’s office I sat with the flu and vomited onto the floor just in time to prove to my mom that I was actually sick and not faking it. But that’s another story.) I worked part-time at her bookstore (mostly telling people that, no, that month’s issue of that particular romance series hadn’t shown up yet) and part-time at a children’s clothing store in Pismo Beach. There I sold sweatshirts to kids who had come over from the central valley, to our foggy coast, in shorts & tank tops; and I learned to make a bow out of wrapping ribbon, by hand, to top off the grandparent-to-grandchild presents I wrapped.
  • Typing up dog and cat records and cleaning exam rooms. After paying my dues in retail, I ended up working summers for my parents at their veterinary clinic. Yes, you’re right–I’ve listed only the glamorous parts of the job. Seriously, other than some of the cleaning and some of the holding down of dogs with sharp teeth that didn’t want to be held down, I loved that job. We were almost always busy, and I met some wonderful people. Their owners were often pretty nice, too.
  • Quiet birthdays. Since I’m an August-born and, at least back then, pretty shy, I remember feeling pretty detached from my school friends by the time birthdays came around. I know I had parties when I was young–I remember Musical Chairs in the kitchen of our first house and some Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and I had a couple of small sleepovers when I was older, but I think I was probably happiest with family cake and, you know, a new book. This might be a memory to check with the rest of the family, though!
  • Afghans. One more repeat–sixties and early seventies. One summer, I think I was twelve, my cousin came to stay for a week (more?) and she, a good friend, and I all crocheted granny-square afghans. And I mean granny-square. One. Big. Square. I believe mine was made up of yellow, orange, hot pink, lime green, and purple. I could check, if I were so inclined, because I still have that afghan. No matter how much you’re inclined, as an adult, to purge Stuff, there are some things you just don’t throw out.
  • Boredom. Yes, I think this may be the true function and purpose of summer vacation. To give the kids just enough off-time so that when the end of summer rolls around, they’re–if not ready–at least resigned to school starting back up again. Ready for something different. I know I was. Plus, you know, there were all the cool school supplies to buy–notebooks that were waiting to be written in, pens that were still filled with ink, Pee Chee folders to doodle on. Teachers that still had all the potential, at least, to be wonderful. And friends to see again. One more fresh start.

What about you? What are a few of your favorite (or not-so favorite) summer memories. Join me in a few moments of time travel and share something from those vacation weeks. And don’t forget, if you know what that plastic stuff is called and you’d like to win a copy of my book, leave a comment to enter!

Friday Five: Back to School

As I type this, my son is stretched out on the futon in my office, the cat asleep beside him, and Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music in his hand. This weekend, a cousin is coming to hang out, there will probably be band practice, and there will definitely be Shakespeare.

And on Monday, school starts.

It’s been a wonderful summer, the recharge and relaxation being so wonderful, I honestly haven’t missed the productivity. This is the first August in a long time that I’m not seriously antsy about needing fall to GET HERE.

Here are a few things this school year will bring.

1. Driver’s Education. Oh, yeah. Did I mention he’ll be sixteen in the spring? Luckily, his dad wants to take charge of the driving lessons. I have NO problem with that. None of us need me in the passenger seat at the start of this big step.

2. A mix of determination and hope that I will have something on submission by the end of the fall. I feel like I have one more hurdle to get over on the picture book, and then it’s word revision, which I’m seriously looking forward to at this point. And then this book will be in the pile of all those trying to find their way out into the world.

3. More picture book ideas and drafts. I’m determined to participate in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo in November. After all the work and learning I’ve put into my first picture book, I’m darned well going to find some more stories to play with.

4. Please, please, please, a completed draft of the Historical YA. My biggest battle with this book is NOT getting discouraged at how long each draft is taking me to write. I’m choosing to look at that as evidence that it will be a better, stronger, deeper book than other manuscripts I’ve worked on and completed. Yeah, that’s it!

5.  Growth. For my son and for me. There’s something about seeing my son head into his sophomore year of high school that makes me very aware of how much things have changed and are still changing for both of us. Watching him is an experience made up of equal parts wonder, awe, and hope. And a reminder that I, myself, don’t want my own life to stay the same, that I need to be looking for the places I want to, yes, mature. That I need to be pushing myself to take the risks that will let me do that.

What’s shifting for you and yours, as summer vacation fades out for another year?

Summer: The Countdown Begins

Here’s what my son’s next two weeks look like:

  • This week-finals, for which I think he’s pretty much prepped. And, I’m guessing, no homework.
  • 8th-grade party.
  • One more weekend.
  • Next week–two days of math games.
  • One day of not-sure-what: do they practice for 8th-grade graduation ceremonies?
  • One day at Great America.
  • Last day of school/graduation.

Here’s what my next two weeks look like:

  • Write
  • Critique
  • Market
  • Pretend the calendar pages aren’t turning any faster

Normally, this time of year, I’m not ready for June. I’m not ready for the shift in schedule that disrupts my writing pattern. I’m not ready for hot weather.

Well, as all of you know who’ve listened to me whining this spring, I’m SO ready for hot weather! And the rest of it.

As my son gets older and, frankly, wants less time with me hanging around, it becomes easier to get my work done and then enjoy the bits and pieces of our days that do overlap. I have a child who pretty much epitomizes the sleeping-in teenager (wonder where he got THAT trait!), so I can turn off the alarm, wake up on my own, and still have plenty of morning time to write. And the other things I need to get done–critiquing and prepping for conference workshops, well…they’ll get done.

If I had a writing goal for this summer that I was brave enough to speak out loud, it would be to finish the draft of this WIP. Looking at that goal, I think it’s a good one. The more I open myself up to dumping those icky first-draft pages into my computer, the sooner I’ll get to revision. So I guess the push this summer will be for me to keep pushing myself–to come back to the computer each morning, throw a semi-thought-out dart at some path for my MC to head down, and write it. My son is heading into high school this fall–I’d love to be heading into a revision at the same time.  Milestones for both of us.

What about you? How does your writing path shift and curve in this next month, and what do you do to keep things on some kind of track? However you make it happen, remember to relax and enjoy some of that vacation feel. I know I’m going to!