Monday, February 28, 2011

March Madness for the Kid Lit Crowd

Back to writing today!
The writing goals I set for February got trashed by family illness, and work obligations. Now spring is peeking through the clouds around here, and I'm already making plans for the garden. There's going to be a new patio in the yard this year, and a nice little sitting area for evenings around the fire. So when a little extra work comes my way, how can I say no?

I also need my writing time! Nothing makes me feel more accomplished than spending a few hours with my manuscripts. Thankfully, the fantastic Denise Jaden has started a March Madness writing/reading challenge, which is exactly what I need right now. Time to get back into my little worlds of strange science, mysterious adventurers and mythical creatures.

Go here to join in! March Madness :)

My goal is getting through my current revision. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I Was There

I haven't considered myself a super-political gal in the past. I write the occasional letter to a representative. I vote. I try to follow news - beyond the endless op-ed pieces run on cable "news" networks.
Until this week, I wasn't really granola enough to put on my marching boots and que up with the masses.

Today, my legs are tired from a five hour march in Madison. Today, my voice is hoarse from singing the national anthem on the steps of the capitol building with a crowd of 100,000. Today, my arms are tired from pulling my son in a wagon, alongside the thousands of other moms and dads and grandparents carrying their children with them on the walk.
I am tired physically, but internally, I feel refreshed, renewed, and encouraged.

Yesterday, we arrived in Madison in time to join the police and firefighters' unions as they marched from the Municipal Building to the Capitol.

There were some amusing characters in the crowd.

The majority of the crowd were just decent people, union and non-union alike. They were smiling, They were singing. They were joining together in a spirit of unity and hope. The mood was overwhelmingly positive and civil. In the middle of a group of tens of thousands, I didn't see a single angry word exchanged. Not a single scuffle, not a single angry slur aimed at anyone in the crowd. The gathering remained unfailingly polite, hospitable and respectful. People handed out food and drink to each other. They kept the grounds spotless.

The people gathering in Madison this past week - over 250,000 so far - have been there to support each other, to speak out on each other's behalf, to stand and be counted together. It has been more than a protest. More than a demonstration. This has been a gathering of respect, of kindness, of civility, of appreciation. That is what the people in Madison have demonstrated this week, and it is all we are asking for from our government.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Even if you aren't currently living in Wisconsin, have never been to Wisconsin, or couldn't even name the states surrounding us, you've probably seen some mention of what's going on in Madison this week.
Right up front - I fully support the unions. I come from a strong union family, and I have many
friends and family who work for both public and private unions. I've also been spending the last week educating myself about both sides of the issue, looking into how we can be fiscally responsible without trampling on worker's rights.

What has been the most troubling to me through all of this has been the outright attacks on working people, especially teachers. These are people who put themselves through graduate school, and are working for a substantially lower salary in order to use their education and talents for the public, instead of just for themselves. Same for the the corrections officers, mental health care professionals, county workers, and nurses also included in the removeal of collective bargaining rights in this proposed Budget Repair Bill. Most of them are highly educated, dedicated employees, and they are being called thugs, leeches, freeloaders, bums, and many, many other derogetory terms that I find inappropriate to post here.

The teachers, nurses, social workers and public servants I know personally are none of those things. They don't have any agenda beyond retaining their rights to negotiate with their employers. They have agreed to take cuts in pay and benefits in the coming fiscal years to help us all, and still, they are under threat.

But then there is this :

Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

Wisconsin "Budget Repair Bill" Protest Pt 2 from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

This is what's really going on in Madison. Things that come to mind as I watch this, and Ben's footage of the demonstrations last weekend-

Peace, Civility, Respect, Encouragement, Rationality, Inspiration. Kind people asking for kindness. Power without greed or selfishness. Dedication to the common good. True solidarity for your fellow man.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Random Writing Tip of the Day

On the road to my little cottage, there is a big old farmhouse on a steep, rocky hill, with two huge porches, a rambling stone barn out back, and a big pond in the front yard. I've always loved that house. When I was a kid, I thought it was possibly the Best Place to Live Ever.

Not long after we moved here, when Mr. Cate and I were driving home, he looked up at the big old farmhouse and said very plainly, "Yeesh. What a dump. Someone needs to clean that place up."

I was a little miffed. What was he talking about? It was a charming, storybook house! Well, it had been, once. When I looked a little closer, reality started to sink in.
The house I remembered was beautiful, with flowers in the front yard, rolling white fences, a little pier and canoe out in the pond, and horses grazing in the paddock beside the barn.

It had been a few years (20?) since I'd really looked at the place. It needed paint. The garden needed some serious tending. The bushes our front were wildly overgrown, covering much of the front porch. The white fencing had been removed, the pier was sinking into the pond, and the horses were gone. The road had been widened, too, and the house that once sat on a picturesque hill of rock gardens was now way too close to a two lane highway. To me, it was the same darling property I dreamed about when I was a little kid. I hadn't seen it from anyone else's perspective, and I had never told my husband that I loved that house as a kid, so how was he supposed to know?

Which reminded me of my writing.
I have a habit of being too obtuse with my plots. In trying to get too clever, I sometimes get way too subtle. I put in a lot of hints, but I don't actually explain what's going on. As a reader, I hate that. It's not fun, it's just irritating. Some things should be a puzzle, some clues should be left up to the reader to put together, but not everything. Sometimes, a nice, plain explanation is totally appropriate. Especially when you write steampunk, or sci-fi, or magical realism, or any other genre where nothing can be assumed about the characters or their world. Otherwise, you wind up with the endings where something that previously had no magical properties suddenly - does! Or characters have to bring the action to a grinding halt to sit around explaining what has actually been going on for the last 300 pages.

The good news, is, I think I'm improving.
Sometimes, I actually make sense.