Monday, May 31, 2010

The Zoo Field Trip: My Brush with Insanity

A couple of weeks ago I promised to describe the zoo field trip I went on with my first grader and how it surely cut some years off the end of my life and made me want a padded cell.

My group consisted of four cute little first graders: two boys and two girls, counting my daughter.

I volunteered all year, so I knew the kids; they were a really smart set. I was lucky. Or so I thought.

All goes well for the five minutes we took at the school for potty breaks. Then we head out to the buses. They aren't all there yet, so we have to wait.

Boy 1 proceeds to run around the grass, this way and that, joining other groups and coming back only when I herd him back to our little group so he won't board the wrong bus.

In spite of my efforts, he gets away for probably the 9th time and head-butted Girl 1.

G1 bursts into tears. B1 apologizes profusely, and I can tell he means it; he was messing around and didn't realize that the things he sees on TV can oh, HURT. I comfort G1.

But she's crying so hard that within seconds, every mother in a 30-foot radius freaks out and wants to know what's wrong. This sends G1 sobbing and wailing. (She's getting all kinds of awesome attention. Can't let that go to waste!) I assure them she's fine. Then I assure her that she's fine.

Five minutes and enough melodrama to fill an episode of Day of Our Lives later, her sobs are sniffles.

After eight more cycles of, "B1, Stay. With. The. Group!" we board the bus and sit on three close benches. So far Boy 2 has been quiet. He has strayed a couple of times, although not nearly as Houdini-like as B1. Overall, he's well-behaved, and my daughter just holds my hand and grins because her mommy is there.

Surprisingly, no members of my group misbehave on the bus ride. Head-butt notwithstanding, I have hopes for the excursion.

After arrival, as we leave the bus, both B1 and B2 announce in no uncertain terms that they really, really have to go potty. (Forget that we took a potty break not 45 minutes ago.)

We wait in line to get into the zoo.

"I gotta go!" B1 says. "Like, REALLY BAD."

"Me, too!" B2 insists.

They both start the try-not-to-pee dance and hold the front of their pants as I calmly explain that we'll get to a restroom just as soon as we get inside.

Thanks to my visit here last summer, I remember some bathrooms inside the nearby giraffe house. I pat myself on the back. This will be a piece of cake.

We enter the park with renewed choruses of, "I gotta goooooooo! Nooooooow!" from both B1 and B2. G1 admits that she kinda needs to go too.

No sooner have we gotten past the entrance, however, than B1 races to a chain link fence. "There's a wolf in there! Check it out!"

B2 goes over and clings to the fence. "Where? I don't see it."

"The sign says a wolf is in here." Then, to me, rather annoyed, "Where is it?"

I smile. "It's probably hiding somewhere. We can come back to look at it. Let's get you guys to the bathroom."

B2: "How far away is it?"

"It's really close," I assure them.

We head down the paved hill toward the giraffe house. The boys stop to watch tigers pacing, a bird, and other animals. I wonder what happened to their bladders. The moment the giraffes are visible (they're outside rather than inside their house), the boys squeal.

B1: "Giraffes! Cool!"

All four kids race to the giraffes. They discuss the spots and heights, analyze what a blue hanging thing must be, and more. Again, I feel pleased. These are smart kids. Then . . .

B2: "I GOTTA PEE!"

B1: "If I don't go NOW, I'm gonna pee my pants! You said we were going to the bathroom!"

"I was taking you to the bathroom, but you kept stopping to look at the animals."

My logic is not accepted, and I get some rolling of the eyes. I round them up and lead them toward the giraffe house. We reach the doors, and as they go in, I count: B1, B2, daughter . . . where's G1? I look around, panicked. I can't see her tow-head anywhere. "You three stay right here," I order. "Don't move."

As I race off to find G1, I hope they understand that "don't move" doesn't mean they can't do their anti-pee dance.

G1 is found gazing longingly at the giraffes. I about fall over with relief, hold out my hand, and she reluctantly leaves the fence.

We use the facilities. The boys are too old to come into the women's side, and I can't go into the men's, so I hope for the best. Everyone emerges unscathed with pants dry. Crisis averted.

But with the wolves, tigers, giraffes, and bladder emergency, we've just wasted 20 minutes. We're required to be at the elephant show with the rest of the school in less than 10 minutes. I inform the group that we'll check out all the cool exhibits AFTER the elephant show.

But B1 isn't happy about that, because to get to the show, we're passing a bunch of cool stuff and we aren't stopping. Every time we pass an animal (or anything of interest), he races for it.

"Bridge!"

"Water! Look, I'm throwing stuff into it! You could drown down there."

"Stairs!"

"Penguins!!!"

"Monkeys!!!"

"Rhinos!!!"

Each time I chase the kid down and hope the other three don't get lost meanwhile. "PLEASE can we just look at the rhinos?" B1 begs.

"Yes, but after the elephant show," I tell him.

We're already 5 minutes late. I guide him with my hand firmly on his shoulder, something he hates). But it's that or find a collar and a leash. The audience seating is packed. I almost cry when I realize the kids might not have seats. This would mean chasing them during the show.

Fortunately, first graders have small rear ends, and others were able to squeeze together. For about 20 minutes, all was well. We saw an elephant do tricks, including paint a picture. By this point, my blood pressure had returned to normal.

All is well. No one is lost. They are contained and happy.

The moment the show is over, B1 insists that NOW we must see the rhinos. They're close by, so I agree. As the kids cram into the rhino exhibit, I hear someone calling me through the crowd. Another mother is trying to tell me where the milk for the lunches is.

If she hadn't found me, we wouldn't have known, and that would have been ugly.

When the four were happy to be done staring at rhinos, we got our lunch milk. This is the first time I've had to gather my group without herding them. Probably because it involves food.

B1 was dying to see the snakes, the King Cobra in particular, because that is the animal he did his report on. But B2 and G1 agreed that they wanted to eat first. We find a table with an umbrella top and had lunch.

This was the best part of the day. The kids were polite as they ate. They cracked jokes, made insightful conversation, and were a pure delight. These kids really were SMART.

But no sooner had the trash hit the bins than the chaos returned.

"PENGUINS!!!!" And whoosh. B1 races off. It has begun again. We follow.

"Llamas!"

"Let's go see the snakes!"

Okay, so the snake house is apparently my Achilles' Heel. It has several interconnecting rooms with doors and an open aviary in the middle.

Our trip into the snake house looked like this:

B1: "I think I remember where the King Cobra is!" RUNS through a door.

Me, trying to keep the other three from falling behind. "B1, come back. Wait for us!"

We get inside. B1 sees just about every kind of snake (including the poisonous one he told me about over lunch), but no King Cobra. He seems horribly offended.

He races around a corner. B2 is quietly and attentively admiring a huge snake in a corner. I think he was even reading the signs. (Like I said, smart kids.) But when the girls were with me in the center and B1 is racing off to Kansas alone, I couldn't leave B2 to read and learn. Hating that I had to rush him (but terrified what would happen to B1 if I didn't), I urged him to follow and stay with the group.

The rest of the snake house was a blur of going into and out of all the same rooms multiple times (B1 refused to accept that they didn't HAVE a King Cobra) and my adrenaline levels spiking as I inevitably lost sight of every kid regularly (except my own, because she was still so thrilled I was there. I couldn't have peeled her off my side if I'd wanted to).

After the snakes came the gorilla exhibit, which was closed. Then the camels. And then B1 seeing a peacock that had escaped its pen. He decided that walking right up to it and petting it was a great idea. As I was frantically calling him back (envisioning him getting e. coli or some other infection and his mother blaming me for his untimely demise), another mother was saying, "Way to go! Good job!"

Be proud of me; I didn't slap her.

Next I tried to get them all set up for a cute picture by the giant elephant statue, but they're crawling under legs and whatnot, so I end up with one that shows just one child clearly: mine.

But this is also when G1 announces that she has to pee. BAD. I know she went at our last potty break and at the school and determine she must have a bladder the size of a pea. We hunt down a different bathroom for her, and while we wait, the other three fight each other as they climb a rhino statue. (But hey--they're all together, even if they are fighting.)

It starts raining. I almost curse the universe, but then learn that it is a blessing: to my relief, they asked to return to the bus a little early because the rain was making me cold.

"But I'm not cold," B2 pronounces. "My body must be stronger than everyone else's."

Moments later, he asks for his jacket back from B1 and bundles up. Yep. Strong dude.

We return to the bus. I sit on a bench and breathe while the other four make the interior a playground by running down the aisle, climbing benches, and playing horsey on a spot that jutted out in the back.

I decide that I didn't care. They're contained and not bleeding, right?

I'd spent hours preventing B1 from taking off like Magellan. I felt bad that I couldn't let B2 soak in everything he wanted to (like in the primate house, which was packed with people and strollers: he wanted to stand at a window and watch the sleeping orangutan, but B1 was already flying out the doors).

I do love those kids. They're all so curious and eager to learn.

One mom handling them all, though . . . oh, heavens. This is the kind of exploration each one would have thrived on had they been there with ONE other adult. Instead, pandemonium reigned.

I'm betting that in 30 years, those kids will have made their mark, and when they do, I'll point to the TV and a few gray hairs and say, "See him? I took that kid on his zoo field trip, and this is the gray hair he gave me."

In spite of the challenges these kids brought me, I will say that riding a bus with noisy first graders knocks the socks off of riding the bus with 5th graders, who sing rousing renditions of "Boom Chicka-Boom" and "We Are the Champions."

One of the 5th graders in the back seriously knew all the verses and sang them at the top of his voice: "You got mud on your face. Big disgrace. Kickin' your can all over the place . . . "

That.

Was.

Loud.

School is out, so no more field trips for several months, at least.

Yay!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Author Interview: Sarah M. Eden

***ATTENTION: Giveaway Below!***

It's no secret that Sarah M. Eden is my new favorite novelist. I've read four of her books (only one is in print currently, neener, neener), and after the first one, Seeking Persephone, I knew I had to meet her. That book was a Whitney Award finalist for Best Romance, so at the Whitney gala that year, I ran around frantically afterward asking people who Sarah was and where she was sitting. I'd never seen a picture.

Turns out my rush to bow at the feet of her greatness was a slight inconvenience; Sarah had been rather urgently waiting for the end of the gala to make a discrete trip to the ladies' room. Then this crazy woman hurdles tables in a mad dash and hijacks Sarah to gush about her work. (I think she likes me anyway.)

Since then, Sarah's moved to Utah so I get to see her a lot. She's now part of my critique group. This means I get to read her work before anyone else. (I know what story she's working on now and what characters from Courting Miss Lancaster are in it! Bwahahahhaaaa.)

I just had to do an interview with Sarah. If you haven't been on her blog, be sure to visit, especially on Fridays, when she interviews people. (Click on the "I Need Friends Friday" button in my sidebar for the interview with me. Then read her others, including my favorite: the one with Jacob Black. Favorite line: "I'm pretty sure I wouldn't date a Happy Meal.")

Without further ado, here's a bit about Sarah, with my commentary in between, because you know me; I can't shut up!

List at least 5 unusual things about you that cannot be found on your website or book bio.

1) I received my Bachelor's degree in social science research, which makes me a complete and total nerd. [See why we're friends? Total nerds rule the world!]

2) I took a class in college that covered the complete works of Shakespeare. It was taught by Professor William Shakespeare. His actual name. And, yes, he was related to the original William Shakespeare. [Cool points for both of us! I grew up one street away from that very William Shakespeare. His son went to my high school and, as was family tradition, he also carried the name. The dad went by Bill, and the son, a great actor in his own right who appeared in Shakespeare plays, went by Will. Their license plate was, "THE BARD."]

3) My shoe size is 4 ½. For those of you keeping track, that size is found in the girls' section and not the women's. My shoe selection is often limited to Barbie and Dora. [*Taking notes.* Next time I'm out shopping for my daughters' shoes, I'll grab something classy and adult-looking . . . if I find anything like that.]

4) One of my goals in life was to reach 5-feet tall. I didn't make it. [But your heart is the size of Manhattan, so it all evens out.]

5) My great-grandmother paid for me to take dance classes starting when I was 4 because I was so incredibly shy that the entire family was worried about me and hoped the forced interaction would boost my confidence a little. Most people wouldn't guess it, but I still am pretty introverted. Okay. Stop laughing. I really am in some ways. Once I know someone, or if they approach me first, I'm a social kind of gal. But I tend to keep to myself when I don't know people. No really. Stop laughing. [I'm extremely shy myself, so I totally get this. People, stop laughing at both of us.]

What drew you to write specifically about the Regency period?

I first started reading Jane Austen in elementary school, because I'm not normal. I loved it. I didn't completely understand it all being only 11 years old, but what I understood I loved. Over the years I continued reading her works as well as Georgette Heyer, who wrote a mind-boggling number of novels set in the Regency era, and I simply fell in love with this time period.

Over the years I have absolutely consumed books from and about this era in English history and the more I learn the more fascinated I am. The differences between this time period and our own are intriguing, but so are the similarities—war, economic turmoil, divisiveness in politics, obsession with celebrity, etc.

I started writing romances set in this time period when I got fed up with the lack of good, clean Regency era romances. Once upon a time this sub-genre of romance was a safe haven for those with basic moral standards, but not any longer. Tired of not being able to find novels I wanted to read, I opted to write my own.

[What amazes me is how FAST you learned to write WELL. If I didn't love your guts, that alone might be grounds for hating you.]

Do you have any writer quirks? (I know, writers ARE giant quirks. But is there anything you need to get into the groove? Any rituals? Stuff that absolutely guarantees writer's block?)

In reverse order of importance:

  • Something to drink. And by something, I mean water. Obsessed with water.
  • A restroom nearby. Mostly because of the above obsession.
  • Music. I can't write in silence. The sound of my own breathing annoys me. The music has to match the tone of what I'm writing and not have lyrics, or else I catch myself typing the lyrics instead of my own thoughts. That is also annoying.
  • Cheetos.
  • No children.

[No children around and having Cheetos are most important. Check. Aspiring writers, take note.]

What's your favorite part of the writing process?

I love when I'm writing and the pieces fall into place accidentally. That sounds weird, probably, but it happens. For example, I look back at what I've written and realize that I've set up something that hadn't occurred to me before but is a perfect fit. Or I discover something that actually happened in history that will add some extra punch to the story I'm writing. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, I flip out. In a good way.

I love that feeling!

[Me, too! And it doesn't sound weird; it's happened to me lots of times. Non-writers may think we've lost our marbles, though.]

Least favorite part of writing?

Editing. Hands down. I like creating and discovering the story. Nit-picking each word and sentence drives me crazy. Or crazier, anyway.

[Writing always involves some level of crazy, for sure. I don't mind editing until the end, when I'm so sick of a book I don't CARE where the comma goes; just BURN the thing.]

Favorite board game?

Backgammon. I always get funny looks when I tell people that. C'mon. It's not that weird. And it's a great game.

[Another note, this one for our summer to-do list: "Sarah must teach Annette how to play Backgammon."]

Name a scar you have and briefly tell the story behind it.

I have a huge scar on my right knee—it was once mistaken for an earthworm. I was at camp one summer when I was 14, I think. Even then I had a reputation for being accident prone. I had just finished the hatchet and ax class, in which I was only allowed to explain how I would use said hatchet and ax were they to allow me to use them (which they didn't) because every adult present was afraid I would sever something vital were I given a sharp object.

I hurried over the the lashing class, figuring that rope was dull enough to prevent injury. However, I misjudged my proximity to the large piece of rebar serving as a stake for the canopy under which the class was taking place. Life lesson learned that day: When flesh and rebar get into a tug-of-war, flesh always loses.

[Of course you weren't cut by the ax. That would have made far too much sense.]

Favorite childhood toy?

I loved my Lite-Brite. Nothing says hours of childhood fun like a light bulb and teeny, tiny colored plastic sticks jammed into a black peg board. Aah. Those were the days.

[Lite-Brite! I loved those! Never had my own, but I coveted my cousins' and used theirs any time we visited. My kids inherited one from their cousins. Nightmare to clean up after, so I secretly threw it away. I'm evil.]

If you could have a super power, what would it be--and why?

Flying. I have always wanted to be able to fly. Not only would it be fun, but talk about convenient!

[Zooom!]

Dream car?

1965 Austin Healey 3000 MkIII, deep green, retractable leather top. Why? Because that is one hot-momma car and I'd look pretty swanky driving that baby.

[Super cool. This is the best image I could find:]

Name one literary pet peeve.

Author intrusion. I go absolutely bonkers every time I'm reading a book and something happens or is said or is stuck in the description that immediately screams “Hello, reader. This is the author. I interrupt this story to do one of the following things: 1. tell you something I think you should know but would rather not got to the bother of figuring out a more natural way of including it, 2. conveniently drop in a plot point that I like but that wasn't working out on its own, or 3. throw in some writing that is here purely for my own gratification and to show off my writing ability.”

Wow. I'm feeling annoyed just thinking about it.

[I'm twitching. Clear sign that it's one of my peeves too.]

Favorite Sesame Street character? (Because we need to cover the really important stuff.)

Cookie Monster. “C is for Cookie. That's good enough for me.” Me, too, Cookie. Me, too.

[For me, he ties with Grover. I guess I have a thing for blue Muppets.)

What writers influence your work the most? In what ways?

Of course, Jane Austen. I love that she always allowed her characters to drive the story. She didn't need crazy plot twists or tons of subplots to keep her novels going. She gave us characters we could relate to, and because the tension always arose from their own flaws and misconceptions, we get it even hundreds of years later because it parallels the struggles of all of us. That's what I try to do in my books—character-driven plots and issues that modern readers can relate to and understand even though the setting is 200 years earlier.

I have often said that Georgette Heyer is the author I want to be when I grow up. She wrote in the early part of the 20th century and was positively prolific. Her books were, like Austen's, very much character-driven. Despite writing dozens and dozens of books, each is original and unique—no carbon copy plots for Georgette Heyer. Her grasp of the Regency-era language was flawless. And her comic sense was spot on. Georgette Heyer is, far and away, my historical-romance super hero!

[Confession: I've never read Georgette Heyer. She is hereby on my TBR list.]

What did you do to celebrate your first book's acceptance?

I did the Dance of Joy in my living room. Here, I'll demo. *dance, dance, dance* That was awesome, huh?

I also went out to eat with my family.

Then I started working on my next book.

A little boring, but I enjoyed it.

[Only boring for those who don't know the Dance of Joy, don't enjoy food, and don't enjoy writing.]

Aside from Regency romance, what genres are your favorite to read? Favorite authors?

I love romance in all its varieties—except the morally-decrepit variety. I am also a fan of fantasy, to a degree. Not hard-core fantasy, but books with a fantasy element. And not dark fantasy. I also enjoy me a little steam punk, which seems like an odd fit, but there you go.

Favorite authors:

  • Harper Lee—To Kill a Mockingbird is my all-time favorite book.
  • I'm also an enormous fan of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game.
  • Of course Jane Austen, Persuasion being my favorite of hers.
  • And Georgette Heyer!
[We share several favorites!]

There you have it! Be sure to check out Sarah's new book, Courting Miss Lancaster.

So far, it's my favorite 2010 release by an LDS publisher, hands down. (Not counting anything published by authors with the initials AL . . .) I've already sent in my Whitney nomination for CML. I'm going to assume they'll be flooded with nominations (a book needs 5 to be official).

CML really rocks. We were both on the DB site's top 10 in General Fiction for several weeks. I got up to about #7, but she eventually knocked me down to #11 and kept the #10 slot.

(She deserved it.)

******GIVEAWAY TIME!******
I have a signed copy of Courting Miss Lancaster that ONE lucky person gets to win. (It's not my personal copy; that one NO ONE gets to touch.)

To enter, simply comment on this post.

For extra entries:
(1 each. Be sure comment on each so I can give you credit!)
-Tweet about the giveaway (one tweet per day)
-Mention the giveaway on your FB status
-Follow my blog
-Follow Sarah's blog
-Follow me on Twitter
-Follow Sarah on Twitter
-In a SEPARATE comment, tell me YOUR favorite Sesame Street character

(Important note: Be sure I can contact you via e-mail. Either include your address in a comment or be sure your e-mail is activated on your profile.)

The winner will drawn announced in a week, on Friday, June 4th.

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Lyman Flat Daddy Family

I swear, I have the best blog readers ever.

TODAY I get to officially place the order for the Patterson Flat Daddy. Booyah!

The next ones to get a Flat Daddy are the Lyman family.

Get this: their Flat Daddy is already paid for. I didn't even get a chance to tell you who they were, and you all donated enough to pay for it!

So here's their (belated) spotlight:

The Lyman Family

Daddy Lyman departed for his first deployment just two weeks ago. In his wife's words, it's already "surprisingly HARDER than we thought it would be."

The Lymans have four children: 8 months, 4 years, 6 years, and 8 years. (My heart is aching just thinking about those little ones.)


Daddy Lyman

The family loves adventure, the outdoors, camping, and animals. Daddy Lyman is a huge kid at heart and loves wrestling with the kids on the floor. They have a menagerie of animals, including a horse and chickens. They enjoy reading together as a family and discovering new, exciting books.

Now his young children will be able to "wrestle" with Flat Daddy on the floor, take him on camping trips, and read books to him. It's not as good as the real thing, but it's a big step up from the alternative.

A BIG thank you to the donors who made the Lyman Family Flat Daddy possible.

This time, they're, well . . . ahem . . .

Anonymous

and

Anonymous

You know who you are . . . especially the first one with your big donation! (I will keep my promise by not linking over to you, but dang, it's SO HARD not to. I want the world to know how awesome you are!)

I guess the best I can do is to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

As a result of your generosity, my personal Flat Daddy fund already has the money, and the Lyman Family will receive their Flat Daddy very soon.


Next week I'll spotlight Ashleigh's Family.

Because my readers are over-the-top generous, Ashleigh's family already has a progress bar, and it's moving up at at steady pace.


IMPORTANT (BUT UNRELATED) NOTE:
Today is the last day for teens to postmark their registrations for THE Teen Writers Conference, to be held Saturday, June 5th at Weber State.

For all attendees, today is ALSO the last day to submit your contest entries! DO ENTER! (Find the details and rules HERE.) It's worth doing just for the judges' feedback even if you don't get one of the fantabulous prizes!


Another reminder: To donate to the general Flat Daddy fund or to a family you know personally, visit the Flat Daddy site directly.

To get a family onto the waiting list for a free Flat Daddy, contact the "Flat Daddy Lady," Elaine Dumbler, via her website: I'm Already Home.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

WOW! FLAT DADDY UPDATE

In less than 24 hours, we received enough in donations for the Pattersons' Flat Daddy!

My list of families has four more (so far) for whom I'm hoping to get Flat Daddies.

Special thanks to the awesome people who made the Pattersons' Flat Daddy possible:



Friday, May 21, 2010

Lyon's Tale Flat Daddy Families!

The longer Band of Sisters is out, the more military families I come across, whether in real life or online. I'm coming to see just how many of them could use a Flat Daddy of their own.

(Not familiar with the Flat Daddy concept? Visit my web site's FD page.)

These families can submit their names to Elaine Dumler (the official Flat Daddy Lady) to get on the list for a free one when the funds are available. But fund raising can take awhile, and the current waiting list has around 120 families.

So I had an idea: What if my awesome readers help get Flat Daddies for specific military families, one at a time?

Right this minute, I know of at least four families by name who could really use a Flat Daddy, and I'm sure I'll find more. If I somehow run out of names, Elaine can always provide me more from the wait list.

I really, really want to support families going through deployment, and if just some of my readers donate a few dollars here and there, we'd be able to buy several Flat Daddies. They cost more than one person usually can donate at once ($49.50).

But consider this: if 10 people each donated $5, that's a whole Flat Daddy.

A little goes a long way toward making a real difference.

I'm so excited about the idea, I'm giddy!


So here's my plan:
I'll start by spotlighting a specific military family. In many cases, I'll need to stay pretty vague on details simply for the safety of their soldiers, but I'll let you know what I can about them.

Then their family will be on my sidebar. Anyone wanting to donate (even a few dollars!) can do so. Follow the progress bar to see how close we are to getting THAT family their very own Flat Daddy.

Every time enough funds are raised, I'll place the order for that family's Flat Daddy. I'll report back here and put up the next family with their progress bar.

So please, please help out, with whatever amount you can! Go without that burger once this week to help a family. If we all pitch in just a little bit, we can make a huge difference all together!

Remember, you can also donate at the Flat Daddy website directly; you just won't know what family you're donating to, and it won't go toward the Flat Daddy Family spotlighted here at The Lyon's Tale.

Our First Flat Daddy Family: The Pattersons
The Patterson family is currently living through Dad's second deployment. They have five children ranging from five to seventeen.

I believe their five-year-old wasn't even born when Dad left the first time. For him, Dad's absence has got to be particularly hard. But even the older kids miss Dad terribly.


(Above: Daddy Patterson)

Let's help get his family a Flat Daddy . . . now.

Donate with a click.
My side bar now has a donate button. Use it to send money directly to my Flat Daddy Families fund. (Can't get much simpler than that!)


If you know of a family who could use a Flat Daddy, drop me a line, and I'll add them to my list. Let's see how many we can get out there!

But first, let's see how fast we can get the Patterson family their Flat Daddy!

Ready, set, CLICK!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WNW: When Dictionaries Get It Wrong

My good friend Meggen sent me a link to an article, knowing it was right up my nerdy alley.

You can go read it, but the gist is this: a physics professor from Australia noted that every English dictionary he could find (including . . . GASP!!! . . . the OED) had the wrong definition of the word siphon.

We all know the general idea of siphoning: a liquid moves from one place to another, such as siphoning gas from a car.

Here's the problem: English dictionaries (which are not edited by scientists) all state that the force that creates a siphon is "atmospheric pressure."

The professor knew that was wrong. The force that creates a siphon is gravity.

I quickly checked my own OED, and sure enough, there it was: "atmospheric pressure," the definition dating back to 1911, and, unluckily for all the rest of us non-scientific folks, that's the definition every English dictionary has used for over a century. (Siphon is defined incorrectly at Merriam-Webster onlineand Dictionary.com even now.)

The professor, Stephen Hughes, contacted the OED folks, who are in the process of doing a revision and update. They had reached the R section, so Hughes was just in time: they could fix siphon when they hit S.

I remember a similar moment in college when a professor of mine found a minor error in the OED. He beamed and talked about it as if he'd discovered uranium. You don't just find mistakes in the OED. They're pretty darn rare.

The nerd in me loves how this particular error has been perpetuated, undebated, for such a long period and in so many dictionaries.

Speaking of the OED, my random word of the day popped up as jeniver, an obscure synonym to juniper. Sure you wanted to know that.

(I'm such a nerd.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's Almost Here! Teen Conference Reminder


The final registration day for 2nd annual THE Teen Writers Conference is just around the corner: Tuesday, May 25th. (That's a week from TOMORROW.)

If you know a teen who wants to write, this is the place for them!

The Teen Writers Conference includes lots of workshops with published writers, including Janette Rallison (whose sales are just under a million copies now), Dan Wells (international best-seller and Whitney Award winner for Best Novel by a New Author), and many others (including yours truly).

For an all-day conference, it's dirt cheap: $43 for the full day, and that includes lunch. (Attendees are welcome to bring along snacks as well. They can also bring their own lunch and pay just $35 for registration.)

Why is the conference so cheap? Because the committee behind it considers this a labor of love. The cost is to cover basic expenses. We truly believe in giving teens the tools and skills to become successful writers and to follow their passions.

THE CONTEST: The conference also has a one-page contest for attendees that you don't want to miss out on. Getting judge feedback can be a huge step in the learning process, even if you don't win one of the FANTASTIC prizes we have in store.

So bring your teen to Weber State University in Ogden on Saturday, June 5th (AFTER registering by May 25th, right?). The campus is not far for most Utahns (and last year, we had teen attendees from Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, and Colorado!).

New this year: A class especially for last-year attendees who will be no longer teens for 2011 and therefore are "graduating" to the big-time adult conferences. That class will address issues like: Were to do I go now? How to pursue my writing career?

Notes for parents: The authors will have their books for sale at the conference, and most will be at a discount. (Just a heads-up, because after hearing the speakers, I'm guessing some of your teens will want to get a book or two or three.)

Parents are NOT allowed to hang around the conference (that sorta hinders the teen-thing goals), but parents are invited to the final panel and contest award announcement at the end of the day.

For full information on registration, the contest, the full schedule, and more, visit THE Teen Writers Conference website.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Writerly Bonding

I've pretty much been absent from the Internet for about two days or so.

(I returned to 300 some-odd e-mails and nearly 500 blog posts in my reader. I've emptied the in-box for the most part, but I may just mark the blogs as read. I love the blogs I follow, but 500? Ain't happening, folks.)

I was offline for a very good reason: Heather B. Moore, K. C. Grant, and I were invited to speak at the Utah Library Association annual conference in St. George.

We were part of their annual break-out session called "LDS Fiction Extravaganza," which sounded really cool and made me feel important, reality notwithstanding. We were asked to talk about our publishing journeys and then a bit about what we see as the changes and future in the LDS Market.

I've covered my publishing history pretty well in my Writing Journey series, and throughout several posts, I've made some references to how things are changing and will change in the market, but I should probably put them together into one post and elaborate on them.

Thursday's presentation went really well (even if my laptop battery died midway), and we had a great book signing afterward.

HOWEVER, the point of this post is something else: the power of being around people like you.

In my terms, that means:

Writers are weird, we get one another, and that's a good thing.

Heather and I have been friends for many years. We've been part of the same critique group for something like seven years (maybe more? I've lost track). We've been part of one another's successes and rejections. We've seen each other's rough drafts, brainstormed together, chaired a conference together, shared hotel rooms, and more.

It's pretty safe to say she knows me well and we get along GREAT.

Heather and I drove down to St. George together. We spent two days and a night with K. C. (Kim) Grant, a fellow Covenant author. Heather and I did not know her. She and Heather had a few e-mail conversations prior to the conference, but the most contact I'd had with her was in passing, literally not much more than, "Nice to meet you. You look like your picture! Bye!"

Wednesday evening, Heather had a book signing at the Costco near St. George. Kim and I hung out together. I assumed we'd sit quietly watching TV or reading books. Maybe I'd get out some editing work or draft on my laptop.

Instead, Kim and I talked and talked and talked. There was absolutely no shortage of topics. We laughed (rather long and hard at times). We shared writing and publishing experiences. We giggled. We ate snacks. We even ended up with an inside joke or two (and a code word!) along the way.

That doesn't happen with people you just met.

Does it?

Kim's a great person no matter how you look at it, but I honestly think the reason we clicked so well is the simple fact that we shared a foundation: we're both writers.

We could refer to writer stuff without having to explain the background, what it means, how it feels, and so on. We could drop goofy things and not worry that someone will think we're bizarre because we mention characters talking in our heads.

We get each other in a way others simply can't.

By the time Heather and I left for home Thursday evening, I felt like we'd known Kim for months or years rather than a mere 24 hours or so.

It reminded me of the military wives who were my resources for Band of Sisters. They've said that hanging out together was always a relief: All of them understood the hundreds of things no one had to mention. They didn't have to explain acronyms or military terms. A single phrase was enough to get certain ideas across . . . because all of them were there.

I believe that every life experience and passion is similar. Whether your passion is music, theater, reading, photography, quilting, canning, martial arts, crocheting, or something else entirely (oh, like blogging), others who share that interest and passion will get you.

In a sense, it's like Dr. Paul said in the podcast I did with him: we all need to find our "tribe."

(By the way, to listen to the podcast, CLICK HERE. It's about 50 minutes long. I learned a ton just from listening to Dr. Paul . . . he even made me look smart at times. I had a great time talking about my writing and the steps I took to get to where I am.)

Next week, I'll post about today's adventure: my fourth and most insane field trip to the zoo.

A direct quote from the day:

"Come on, boys. We aren't here to look at mustard."