Thursday, April 29, 2010

Throwing Stones

When the inner critic throws you into seas of doubt
find rock to stand on.

Ask yourself questions that give you roots.
Find good reason to get up every day and keep at it.

Why do I write?

words are music
music becomes word
and rhythm
word becomes story
worlds bright and painted

dream lands I can't quite reach
become firm apples to hurl,
glinting sword, highest tower
and gipsy lullaby
swirling dances before the fire

and I write because
I need no audience
only fresh paper
new pens
and time

my small
stone thrown back
to the sea

WHY leads to WHEN and HOW, and for that I give you Anne Lamott:
"creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty...
...The bad news: You have to make time to do this.

This means you have to grasp that your manic forms of connectivity—cell phone, email, text, Twitter—steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement...

what manic or compulsive hours will [you] give up in trade for the equivalent time to write, or meander?
Time is not free—that’s why it’s so precious and worth fighting for."
(Read more here.)

Why do you write (if you're an artist, a musician, etc. - why do you create)?

What are your time-stealers?

What will you give up for extra time to create ?

And how do I keep two four year-olds quiet during nap time so I can write?

Now gather your answers, your bold rocks
and show that inner critic who the boss is around here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Listening to Doorknobs

Fairy gold.
Do I have my kid eyes on?
Or my "don't-touch-that-I-think-a-dog-may-have-peed-on-it" goggles?

I spent years of my life belly-down in grass, fastening fairy wings and building princess bowers.
When did I become fussed over getting fresh air and exercise
to the detriment of my ethereal soul?
We took a walk the other day which brought me back to my senses a bit.

Here we found a for-certain fairy hollow, complete with moss beds and a tiny shell bowl.

Later the girls found a discarded doorknob
and picked it up.

"Mommy, if you put this to your ear you can hear the ocean."

There you have it.
Bright wonder through the eyes of a four year-old.

Inspiration is waiting.
I just need to fasten on my kid goggles more firmly and look
so that
the doorknob speaks
and the sewer lid becomes
in the sunlight.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dog-Ears or Dust-Jackets?

I'm taking a poll.

Dog-ears or Dust-jackets?

How does your bookshelf grow?

Underlined and circled
Annotated pages
And flimsy spines
All stacked
In comfortable piles?
Loved as a comfortable pillow,
Fawned over in times of want?


Rows of pretty, unsullied maids
Standing erectly at attention
Starched snowy frocks within
To be
Devoured with the eyes
But only handled by kid gloves?

I did not know bending corners was a book crime until I stumbled across it in a blog recently.
Who knew? Apparently I have been defiling my books and did not know it.
I was about to whisper words of apology to each tattered volume
when I got to thinking.

Would you rather be loved or left alone?

As an author would you want your book high on a shelf
or read so many times the cover had to be patched back on with duct tape?

Just curious.

I like to think books are glad of being loved
rather than forgotten on the shelves, or worse, never read for fear of spoilage.

[A note to my favorite librarian:
Please do not revoke my library card or forbid the shadow of my blasphemous self to ever cross the threshold of your fine establishment again for the confessions in this post.
I do take tender care of my library books and keep my pages unbent, personal book preferences aside.]

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sugar and other Big Life Questions

I return from my solo weekend refreshed
and with a brain so full it's hibernating in permanent migraine mode.

My husband took care of the kids while I was away with nary a hitch.
The baby started walking, everyone slept like angels, I came home to contented smiles and happy kisses.
No fussing, no whining, the house was even decently clean.

My family had been traded by eerily perfect
Twilight Zone invaders!


Monday morning breakfast.
The girls burst out sobbing.
"You didn't put brown sugar on our oatmeal!" (howling)
"What! Since when do I ever put sugar on anything?"
"But Daddy gives us sugar!" (more sobs)

Aha! His secret to success.
Aliens hadn't abducted the Pray children after all. Just Mary Poppins and her spoonfuls of sugar.
Small price to pay for my weekend of inspiration.

And quite a weekend it was!
I'm wading through pages of notes from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Seattle.
Incredible insights from
Mitali Perkins,
author of Rickshaw Girl and Secret Keeper,
Laini Taylor, known for Lips Touch, Blackbringer, Silksinger
as well as
Jay Asher, Lisa Graff and Kim Baker to name a few.

Of my gleanings from the conference,
I think the most important is the mess of questions I came home with
and which I now pass on to you.

Essential Questions for the Writer:

Why write?
What's really important in life?
What do my characters want?
How's my writing routine working?
How can I do my best work?
How can I get better?
If it gives me more time to write, should I dose the children with sugar?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Coffee Shop Interview

I'm excited because Rayna Iyer of Coffee Rings Everywhere blog has joined us for treats today, all the way from India. I love that blogging has helped me gain friends across the world!
Our virtual coffee shop is very cozy with all these extra plush seats and steaming drinks. What are you sipping?

Earl Grey tea, with milk, and half a spoon of sugar. I used to be addicted to expresso, but have been advised to give up coffee.
And these brownies are fantastic. Maybe I'll try the lemon tarts next.

Ooh, I'll go for one of the brownies too. Something about virtual brownies that just gives me smiles. No calories, and no migraine tomorrow.
I heard a rumour that you have only missed one day since you began blogging. How long ago did you start?

Two years this July. And in all these months, I have missed only a single day.

Alright, that's downright committed. You need a faithful blogger medal!
So when do you squeeze in this consistent writing time?

Two kids and a full-time job- even if I scheduled a time for writing, I am sure it would get highjacked almost everyday. I write whenever I can. But I make sure I do write a bit every day.

That's beautiful, Rayna. I like your determination. Where do you hunker down to write?

I am lucky. I can write on the computer, and with pen and paper. I can also write in my mind, and transcribe it later.
Most of my writing is done on the local train during my daily commute. And if you have seen pictures of the trains in Bombay, you'll realise it is quite a feat.

Wow, that photo says a lot. You're quite a talented photographer too! What do you love doing?

Too many to list - swapping stories with the kids, reading, writing, running, photography, people watching, .....

..and your least favorite hobbies are?
It would be a toss up between dusting, ironing and cleaning up.

Ah yes, my Archenemies! And they will always be demanding attention too, lurking around and taking time from the fun things.
Do you have writing goals for yourself, or do you just fly where the muse wind takes you?

I try to write 250 words a day, everyday. Many days, all I manage is my blog post, but as long as I am writing, I am not to stressed about what I write.

That's a great way to keep the writing gates open.
What do you love to write about ?

People! I only write about people and what drives them.

People - we are complex, fascinating subjects indeed.
And now that I've heard a bit about your life, I have about fifty more questions! We'll have to pick this up again sometime. Thanks so much for visiting, Rayna!

Photos appear courtesy of Rayna Iyer.
An investment banker in a previous life, Rayna now does non-profit work. She loves reading, writing, running, gardening and photography, but will cheerfully trade it all for a few moments more with her two boys!
She writes because the characters in her head insist that she tell their story. And while she dreams of publication, she knows she will never quit her day job to take up writing full time.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Writing hubs and missing mothers

I'm all abuzz about my first solo weekend in two years.
Wahoo! I've got a bucket of paint and I'm going to paint the town red.
I'm going to tap dance on the rooftops.
I'm going to throw confetti out the windows.
I'm going to yell into a loudspeaker.

Okay actually I'll be sitting meekly and taking notes at the SCBWI conference in Seattle. A great hobnob for writers and an awesome chance to soak in good input.
I'm blurbing about this because if you're in the Northwest and you're a writer, this is the place to be this weekend. I hope I'll
get to rub elbows and throw confetti with you.

Clever words from "When We Were Very Young" by A.A. Milne:


James James
Morrison Morrison
Weatherby George Dupree
Took great
Care of his Mother,
Though he was only three.
James James
Said to his Mother,
"Mother," he said, said he:
"You must never go down to the end of the town,
if you don't go down with me."

James James
Morrison's Mother
Put on a golden gown,
James James
Morrison's Mother
Drove to the end of the town.
James James
Morrison's Mother
Said to herself, said she:
"I can get right down to the end of the town
and be back in time for tea."

James James
Morrison's mother
Hasn't been heard of since.
King John
Said he was sorry,
So did the Queen and Prince.
King John
(Somebody told me)
Said to a man he knew:
"If people go down to the end of the town, well,
what can anyone do?"

(Now then, very softly)
W.G.Du P.
Took great
C/o his M*****
Though he was only 3.
Said to his M*****
"M*****," he said, said he:
if-you-don't-go-down-with ME!"

If you haven't spent time at the feet of A.A. Milne, I encourage you to.
A brilliant wordsmith, his works are impeccably illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard, one of my all-time favorite artists. The illustrations above are by Mr. Shepard himself.
My kids love these books, but really I'm the one who gets a treat each time I read.

Here's to moms getting the weekend off!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


We strolled to the graveyard last week.
It's minutes away and overlooks mountains tiptoeing above the sea .

It's curious how time expands and contracts.

Some days yawn with waiting, other days slip by, completely forgotten in their haste.
As a child I remember thinking Christmas Eve night stretched longer than eternity, only to discover later that taking my SAT exams was in fact longer by far.
Now I'm on the other end of the joke because it feels like entire years zoom past in just seconds.

To these old stone tablets, time is a flitting shadow.
This ancient marker is all I know of "Clement Harris, beloved uncle."
He had a life. Who tells his story now?

Fellow writers: here is a place to find your new friends!
Cemetery stones.

Poor uncle Clement won't be poor Clement anymore.
Not after you tell his story.
How he was raised by his cousin till he jumped a train out West to live near his brother
and chop trees at the plummy age of fifteen.
How he fell in love with Edith Sue Boxwallup
but she was done sold off to Harold Nelson by her greedy pa,
which is why Clement robbed the Wells Fargo.
And why he ended up hanging by the neck till dead.

So that's my new writing exercise:
When we hit that heartless wall of Writer's Block, let's go have a talk with those
So many stories simply waiting to be written, lives to honor, characters to find
and perhaps some perspective.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lost Marbles and Other Foolish Fun

Last year for April Fool's Day I tried this "magic trick"
on my husband's lunch fruit.
Using toothpicks, I attempted to slice up a banana without opening the peel.
He called from work to ask if I was trying to poison him. The banana had turned brown and oozy where I'd poked holes.

Ah, so many botched attempts at humor in my life.
Jokes that didn't fly. Comments I wish I'd swallowed. "Oops" conversations.
Days I wonder why I left the house.
Maybe that's why I like to write. The Delete button.

I know "they" say to write your characters with flaws. People like them better that way.
What about real people?
Are we allowed to show our flaws?
Are we really more likable with flaws?
My mom says we're blind to them anyway so there's no use hiding.
Would you still read my work if you knew I was missing a few marbles?

Today of all days, let's celebrate our flaws. Show your foolish side to the world.

Fun Games for Fools:

"Drool". (Swallow well, then lean over a table or floor and wait to see who drools first.)
Maybe not one to try on your writing conference acquaintances, but very successful with teenagers.

"Word Associations". (Say a random word, your friend responds with the next word that pops into his/her head, you respond in kind, and so on.)

"Slide Show" a.k.a. "Annoy the heck out of your sleeping partner" (just as your brain is relaxing before sleep and your bedfellow is nodding off, speak the words or images that come to mind, i.e. "old castle" "rainstorm" "kippers" "mile marker" "man with a broom". It's very fun.)

Great silly books :
"The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship" - Uri Shulevitz
"The Napping House" and "King Bidgood's in the Bathtub" - Don and Audrey Wood
"Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" - Betty MacDonald
"Pippi Longstocking" - Astrid Lindgrin


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