Monday, August 30, 2010

The Graveyard of Abandoned Handbags

I went shopping for a new handbag this weekend, my second new bag in 2 weeks. When I got home, I threw the previous new bag in the back of my closet, then did a double-take. That was a pretty big pile back there!

As you can see, I’m not a designer handbag type of gal. I buy them cheap, because I know they won’t last long.

When my children were small, I favored sack bags, because they carry everything: a stuffed animal, sunscreen, a sippy cup, a granola bar or a baggie full of cheerios.

Husband reading blog over my shoulder: I miss you carrying snacks in your purse.

But although you can fit everything into a sack bag, you can’t find anything. So sacks drive me to organizers – with special pockets for all my items. Of course, these bags have their own problems. Let’s take that teardrop shaped one. I saw it in a catalog and ordered it right away, because it was designed to take painful weight off my shoulder and distribute it evenly across my back. Makes sense, right? Plus it had a total of 12 different pockets to organize all my belongings, including that clever one on the outside to hold an umbrella or a water bottle.

Of course, that pocket wasn’t wide enough to fit an umbrella or a water bottle or even a sippy cup. And 12 pockets meant that I had to look in 12 places before I found my car keys. As for distributing the weight of all my items across my back – that would have been brilliant, if it wasn’t for a little thing called GRAVITY. Everything ended up in the bottom, and who could have seen that coming?

I did find one purse in the bottom of the closet that actually looked pretty good. A pocket in the front for my cell phone, a special access pocket in the back for my wallet.

Me: Why did I quit this one?
Husband: You sound like you’re talking about old boyfriends!

I have to say a word about the Dooney & Bourke bag. Bob gave it to me one Christmas, and I know he was disappointed by my reaction. The sales clerk said his wife would be thrilled to get a DB bag, but as far as I knew, Dooney & Bourke was one of the shops Harry Potter visited in Diagon Alley. I tried to like it; I really did.

Husband: Sigh.

Here’s the bag I bought this weekend. It’s a Nine West bag, kind of cute with a cell phone nook in front and some pockets, but not too many. What’s cool about it is that you can unfold it to make it bigger, and then it’s a sack! I wonder how long it will last?

Ladies, what kind of handbag do you carry? And gentlemen, how do you commit yourselves to a wallet?

HAVE YOU ENTERED THE 100 BLOG FOLLOWERS CONTEST YET? There's still time! Send me your quiz answers before Friday!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gina's Review: Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat

As I expected, this week of Teacher Inservice was exhausting, and I haven’t even started teaching yet! Luckily, my wonderful daughter is covering for me today with her review of Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat.

Don’t forget to enter my 100 Blog Followers Contest! There aren’t too many entries yet, so these early birds are going to clean up all the prizes unless they get some competition! See the post below, or link to it on the sidebar.

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat

Emmy Addison wants nothing more than to be normal. No one in her class even knows her name or remembers that she’s there. The only one that knows she’s there is the rat. The rat is in a cage next to Emmy’s desk. She could understand what it was saying ever since it bit her on the first day of school.

Not even her own parents cared about her. They went on trips to visit some rich people almost every day since they hired the nanny Miss Barmy. So Miss Barmy takes care of her most of the time and makes her life miserable. When a boy named Joe notices her putting a note in the rat’s cage, he causes trouble. Later the rat bites Joe twice and he shrinks down to four inches tall. Emmy has to save Joe, figure out the powers of the rat, and find out Miss Barmy’s secret.

Anyone who likes a very interesting fantasy story would like this and should read this book. My favorite part of it was when Joe saw Emmy put the note in the rat’s cage and he made fun of her. You should also read Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls which is the next book and continues the adventures of Emmy and the rat.

Thank you, Gina! I’ll talk to your teacher about getting you some extra credit for these reviews. I have an “in” with him! (He was my mentee two years ago.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


The first annual PAYA Book Festival on Saturday was so many kinds of awesome, I could hardly contain myself! First of all, I was thrilled to meet wonderful authors like Jon Skovron, Jennifer Hubbard, Amy Brecount-White, Stephanie Kuehnert, Jeri Smith-Ready, and Shannon Delany.

Secondly, the event drew visitors from as far away as Indiana and Virginia, and I got to meet in person The Story Siren, The Page Flipper, Aine’s Realm, Confessions of a Book Addict, Harmony Book Reviews, and more! (I was still connecting real people with their online identities hours after the event … having “Aha!” moments all over the place.) My daughter enjoyed an awesome Teen Writer workshop with authors Kieryn Nicolas and Chelsea Swiggett, while I got to meet blogging friend Christine Danek in person! I also met up again with the lovely people from Haverford’s indie book store, Children’s Book World. They were sporting big smiles because they sold out almost all the books they’d brought. We Hear the Dead was wiped out in under an hour!

And then, of course, nothing beats meeting the readers. Nothing.

Finally, I also scored some prizes for my 100 Blog Follower Celebration! I hit 100 last week (Aine Fey, that was you!) and then continued to top it during the Guess My Character Blogfest and the Giveaway at Aine's Realm. So, it’s time for A CONTEST!!!

First, the prizes:

A manuscript critique from yours truly

Upcoming new releases from Sourcebooks:
· Beautiful Dead: Arizona by Eden Maguire
· The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball by Risa Green

Signed copies (from PAYA) of:
· Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron
· The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
· 13 to Life by Shannon Delany
· Shade by Jeri Ready-Smith
· Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert

Now, the contest. In keeping with my new Back-to-School mindset, it’s a QUIZ! All the answers can be found RIGHT HERE at In High Spirits. You can locate them with little effort – or just guess wildly. (It’s not like I haven’t seen that before!)

The contest is open to US or Canadian residents who are blog members – or international blog members if they’re willing to take the manuscript critique instead of a book as a prize. (Sorry, those mailing costs are killers.) To enter, email me at with answers to the following questions:

1. What is the name of the main character in We Hear the Dead?
2. What grade do I teach?
3. Which one of my daughters regularly appears here with MG book reviews?
4. How do I feel about No Child Left Behind?
5. What’s so special about two graves in Catawissa, PA that I’m writing a whole book about them?

You’ll get one contest entry for each correct answer – plus extra entries if you blog or tweet or Facebook about the contest.

The deadline for entries will be Friday, September 3. I’m counting on this contest to get me through the first couple weeks of school – especially the inevitable faculty meetings about this year’s standardized test requirements. #^@(&%^%# NCLB!! (See, I told you the answers would be easy to find.)

I will announce the winners on Monday, September 6.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Goals Assessment

Summer vacation is over. Kaput. Today is the last day, and tomorrow, I’ll have to shift my mental gears into teaching mode. Boy, are they going to groan, whine, and squeal!

At the beginning of summer vacation, I posted goals for myself. The idea behind posting publicly was to shame myself into actually doing them. Now comes the public unveiling of my accomplishments:

Goal #1: Write another draft of screenplay

I completed draft #7 of the We Hear the Dead screenplay in the early part of the summer. After letting it sit for a few weeks, my collaborator (producer Amy Green) and I have found this version to be lacking one crucial thread – and we think we know how to fix it. So, yes, there will be another draft coming this fall, and I’m very excited about this one. I think it might be the one!

Goal #2: Show the landscaping who was boss

Just look at the picture. Let’s face it: I didn’t even try.

Goal #3: Outline and begin draft of The Caged Graves

Okay, I didn’t write an outline. I jumped in and started writing this one by the seat of my pants with only a dim idea where I was going. I made a couple wrong turns along the way. There are loose ends from plot pathways I chose not to take -- which now have to be cleaned up in revision. But I’ve drafted 57,000 words, and I’m about to gallop into the climax of the novel! Starting school will slow me down a bit, but I’ve got the end in sight now! I credit Tina and Heather and Marisa and The Practice Room for helping me get this far!

Goal #4: Revise my Revolutionary War piece to use in class

This is clearly a work-related project, so why would I do it over my vacation?? Besides, once I got into The Caged Graves, I didn’t want to break my focus. Then it occurred to me that (watch this brilliant rationalization!) revising this piece during the school year -- in fact, modeling those revisions in front of my class -- was a much better idea. Agree with me here, folks. This makes sense.

Goal #5: Swim for exercise in my pool 5x a week

I laughed out loud when I wrote that one, because I knew I’d never do it. However, I made more progress on this goal than I did on #2. In the beginning of the summer, I really did swim 5x a week. I slacked off a little toward the end, but I made a pretty good effort.

Also over the summer, my blog membership topped 100!!! On Wednesday of this week, I’ll roll out my 100 Blog Followers Celebration Contest. Be prepared. There will be a test.

Did anybody else out there meet their goals or surprise themselves?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Guess that Character Revealed

First of all, the setting for this scene is the sleepy mountain town of Catawissa, PA in 1867. So those of you who guessed it was historical were correct! Lenny’s first comment comes very close to describing the correct clothing for Verity. (Yay, Lenny!)

When I close my eyes and see Verity running cross that graveyard, I see she’s dressed in a long fluffy skirt and old fashion lace up shoes and a long sleeve low neck shirt.

Most people guessed that Verity was a brunette, but she’s actually blonde. (Yay, Brenda and Lorna!) Lindsay, Diane, and Jen guessed the right eye color, which is green. She's 17 years old and engaged to marry this young man she barely knows.

Only Francine gave a description of Nate, and she fairly well pegged him!

Nate, I'm seeing as all man, shy, tending reserve in nature, brooding looks with dark brown eyes, and Verity his first real love interest.

I spent a lot of time looking for pictures that matched my characters. For Verity Boone, I could have cheated and just given you a picture of Kate Winslet in period dress.

BUT it’s at least 50 years off from the correct period – and Kate doesn’t quite work for me. I really wanted to find a historical photo – a daguerreotype, actually – that matched my golden-haired, green-eyed Verity Boone. Of course, I had to deal in black and white pictures, and it seemed that most of the girls wearing their hair in the curls I wanted were brunettes. After much searching, I chose this picture as my best option.

What attracted me to this picture is the girl’s direct, confident gaze. There’s a complacency about her that suggests she can be sweet when she wants to be, but cross her at your peril! And she might have honey-colored hair. It’s possible.

Nate McClure was actually easier. When he was courting Verity Boone by letter, he sent her a photograph in which he was stuffed into a suit, with his dark hair severely combed down. His dark eyes were rather stern, and she thought he was “nearly handsome – and might be more so when he smiled.” I thought this photograph almost perfectly matched Nate (except for the sideburns), although he was a little more disheveled when chasing Verity through the cemetery.

For those of you who wanted to know more about these caged graves, I wrote a post back in January describing my encounter with the real life graves that inspired this story.

Thanks, Jen, for hosting this blogfest! It was so much fun! I can’t wait to go visit all the other blogs and see how close (far) I was in my guesses!

Historical photos from Library of Congress.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Guess that Character Blogfest

Today is the Guess That Character Blogfest, sponsored by Jen at Unedited. Below you will find a scene from my current WIP -- The Caged Graves. The object is for you to guess what my character looks like and post your ideas in the comments. In this scene, Verity Boone has just met her fiancé, Nate McClure, a man she knows only through his letters. The meeting has not gone well, and it’s about to get worse …

Verity had no idea what to talk about now. Every conversational topic she’d chosen had led to disaster. Nate didn’t seem capable of helping. He gazed around as if he might find something by the side of the road to salvage the situation.

She looked too, hoping to find some neutral subject for discourse. “What are those?” she asked, her eyes alighting on an interesting sight in the graveyard. She struck out across the grass to get a closer look. Amidst the tombstones behind the church, there were two odd metal structures that looked like tiny conservatories, without the glass. Verity had never seen anything like them.

“Oh … no … wait a minute, Verity.”

They weren’t conservatories—how could they be? The closer she got, the more they looked like overlarge bird cages.


Strangely large, iron filigree cages, each one about four feet high and—she felt a shiver run through her—six feet long.

“Miss Boone!” he said, quite loudly.

That made her turn around, hearing him revert to a formality they had not used since their third exchange of letters. Letters, she now knew, that his sisters had written or, at least, guided. They had read her responses, Verity realized, and possibly met in committee to decide how Nate would answer each one.

He should go back to calling her Miss Boone. He really had no right to anything else. He should start from scratch and introduce himself all over again.

“Please,” he said, standing on the road and holding out his hand. “I think we should go back.”

He looked so wretched that she would have done what he asked if he’d stopped talking then. But he didn’t. “I’m sorry I brought you here,” he rambled on. “I should have realized you hadn’t seen them yet.”

Verity felt as if her heart dropped straight through her body. He wasn’t apologizing for being a buffoon; he was apologizing for something else entirely. Every part of her went cold. Ignoring Nate’s hand, held out so plaintively, she turned back toward the cemetery.

The cages were six feet long, and outside each one there was a headstone.

She broke into a run, her feet pounding across the grass, her skirt hauled up in both hands.

Iron cages surrounded two graves in this cemetery. With a growing dread born of Nate’s urgency and the sound of him chasing after her, she started for the nearest one—then diverted and ran past it as her eyes made out the shape of the lettering on the farther marker …

In the comments tell me how you picture Verity (or Nate, if you like). Tomorrow, I will reveal pictures of these two characters as I envision them, and share the comments which came closest to my idea. Click HERE to find a list of other participating blogs (over 40!) read some great writing – and meet some fascinating new bloggers!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Making Pasta with a Guitar Pick

This past weekend, my husband’s family got together to try out the birthday present my husband received from his sister: a chitarra. Chitarra (pronounced with a hard k sound, my Italian-class-award-winning niece tells me) is Italian for guitar, and this pasta-making contraption is strung rather like a guitar. Enter my guitar-expert brother-in-law who, although not Italian in anyway, had a knack for making this thing work AND provided the perfect tool for plucking the spaghetti strands off the instrument.

With 12 of us participating, it still took all afternoon to make a batch of the most incredible tasting spaghetti it has ever been my honor to eat! In this instructional video below, please note that the men were in charge of the pasta-making, while the women are gossiping in the background and sipping Prosecco.

You can also note that we rolled out the dough with a pasta machine, which – according to family sources – is an abomination. If we were AUTHENTIC Italians, we would have rolled it out with a broom handle.

Be sure to come back on Thursday to check out the Guess My Character Blogfest!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Don't Wanna Go Back!

WAH! A week from tomorrow, the 2010-2011 school year starts for me. The kids have another week off, but teachers return next Tuesday. Here’s how I feel about it:

Yup. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not the kids and it’s not teaching that I dread. It’s being forcibly disconnected from the blogosphere that’s the problem. I admit that I’ve become completely addicted to social networks this summer: Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, Write On Con, Teen Fire … you name it … they are all blocked from my work computer.

Here’s how they’re going to get me back to work:

All right, it’s not just the social networking. There’s also the loss of writing time, of course. And then, there’s the job itself. Teaching is not what it once was. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, the government gives my students a test and then judges me, my school, and my district on whether they pass a standard set by the state. And every two years, Pennsylvania raises the standard. I expect that within my first week back, my colleagues and I will be treated to an In-Service Day presentation of all the NEW REQUIREMENTS plus an estimation of HOW MUCH LESS MONEY THE STATE IS GIVING US and an unveiling of THIS YEAR’S STRATEGY for SPINNING GOLD OUT OF STRAW.

Here’s my colleagues and I going to that meeting:

Grim, huh? There’s really only two things that send me back to the classroom at all. One is the paycheck that covers the mortgage, ahem. And the other is this:

Not the apple. The student.

This Thursday and Friday, I’ll be participating in my first Blogfest: Guess that Character, hosted by Jen @ Unedited. Stop by to read a sample of a WIP and see what you can discern about my characters!

Oh, and that mug at the top of this post? That’s one of my offspring. Yeah.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bringing More YA to PA: PAYA 2010

The first annual PAYA Book Festival is only a week away! I am excited to have a small part in this event, taking place on Saturday, August 21 at the Center for Performing and Fine Arts in West Chester, PA.

I’ll be one of the authors present, signing books which will be available for purchase through Children’s Book World, an independent book store from Haverford. (I love that store!)

There will also be a couple of fantastic workshops. For adult writers, there’s the Listen & Critque Workshop, led by well known authors including Josh Berk, Amy Brecount White, and Shannon Delany. What makes this event kind of special is there will also be a workshop aimed specifically at teen writers, aged 13-18, led by teen authors Chelsea Swiggett, author of a memoir titled Rae: My True Story of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia, and Kieryn Nicolas, author of Rain, a spy mystery adventure. My own daughter, a budding writer, is anxiously looking forward to this workshop. (By the way, thanks to everyone who posted a comment encouraging Gabrielle last week! I am hoping to coax another guest blog out of her, reporting on her experience in this workshop.)

Other events happening this day include a bake sale, basket raffle, and used book sale – all benefitting Pennsylvania libraries.

Something I plan on doing at the festival is collecting a few signed books myself, to use as prizes in an upcoming 100 Blog Follower Celebration! No, I’m not up there yet, but getting close. I’m planning a private celebration (uh … me, my husband, the hot tub, and a couple of cold martinis), and then a public contest with signed books and a manuscript critique as prizes! And since I am, after all, a teacher (with the new school year looming large on the horizon) – you might want to be prepared for a POP QUIZ!

You can learn more about the PAYA Book Festival (and see the list of attending authors – over 20, at last count) or sign up for one of the workshops by visiting the PAYA website. Hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Aqua Seas Tour

Last week, my family took a unique and little-known excursion at Disney Epcot’s Living Seas Aquarium. The Aqua Seas Tour is a behind-the-scenes tour of the Living Seas facility, culminating in a surface swim inside the aquarium!

The tour behind the scenes was cool. It was fun to learn, for instance, that the animals in the facility are fed restaurant-grade food and that the kitchen is maintained above the level of sanitation required for restaurants. The joke at Epcot is that if food falls on the floor in the kitchen at the aquarium, they don’t feed it to the fish – they send it over to the restaurant! (Don’t worry. Not really!) According to Disney, the main aquarium tank contains approximately 5.7 million gallons of sea water and is large enough to hold Spaceship Earth (the giant white ball icon of Epcot) with room to roll it around!

But of course the real draw of this excursion is the swim. Epcot suited us up in wetsuits and briefly trained us on use of the air tanks and regulator. Even though this was a surface swim (and they pile on enough buoyancy to make sure you stay on the surface), the swimmers breathe through diving equipment. It’s easy to get used to and not unlike a snorkel – without the worry of accidentally dunking your snorkel and getting a snoot-full of water.

In full view of the tourists in the aquarium, we swam out into the giant tank, sharing our space with schools of fish, curious eagle rays, sand sharks, and one large sea turtle. The fish were totally nonplussed by our appearance in their environment. The sharks stayed at the bottom where they belonged, while the eagle rays came to check us out eye-to-eye and schools of fish swept by just in case we had any food to hand out. The sea turtle swam up and surfaced for air just a few feet away from me. I poked my head up above the water line and saw his big turtle head appear opposite me. He gulped his air and went back down, completely uninterested in me.

Both my daughters (ages 10 and 13) handled the equipment without much problem. In fact, this was a repeat visit for my older daughter and me. She and I took this tour 5 years ago, when she was only 8! On this trip, the younger daughter had a little trouble with a leaky mask, but overall enjoyed the experience. As for the older daughter, she climbed out of the tank with such a big smile that the Epcot staff told me it made their day.

The cost? About $100 per person, which isn’t bad, and all the money is donated to a wildlife conservation fund. Disney actually picks up the actual expenses of the program. I highly recommend this as a worthwhile experience, and you can learn more about the program here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Air Travel Kharma

We came pretty close to having a CNN-worthy incident on our Florida-bound plane last week.

But let me back up and say that thanks to my husband and his “don’t go with the herd” mentality, we had a pretty smooth arrival at the US Air terminal at Philadelphia and passed through security in just a couple minutes. (Blog post by husband on this strategy will go up as soon as he writes it.) The only blip on our radar screen was a gruff fellow who tried to insert himself in the boarding line between my husband and the rest of our family. I was pretty proud of myself for speaking up (in a pleasant manner) and telling him we were all together. He snapped at me with a sarcastic “Excuuuuse me!” but I smiled and thanked him when he reluctantly stood aside for my children to pass.

However, it looked as if our plane departure was going to be delayed when the flight attendant tried to give safety instructions and explain the duties of the exit row passengers. A woman seated next to the emergency door became belligerent and obnoxious, and when the attendant suggested that her seat be moved, the woman’s husband responded with hostility. Two pleasant young men of college age volunteered to take the exit row seats, and the troublesome pair were forced to move their seats or deplane.

Unfortunately, their new seats placed them across the aisle from me, where I was treated to their muttering, complaining, and foul mouths throughout the three hours from Philly to Orlando. The F-bomb was flying; they repeatedly called the attendant a b****. “This is not over,” the man kept saying. “She’s won the first round, but we’ll get her!” These two nincompoops spent the entire trip planning the downfall of the flight attendant like a pair of feeble-minded cartoon villains.

On a trip to the restroom, I caught the attendant and gave her my business card. I told her that if these passengers caused any trouble for her, she could contact me. She smiled because she said she’d already been given cards by two other passengers. When she flashed the cards at me, I had to laugh – because one of them belonged to my husband. He’d apparently already given her his card on an earlier trip to the restroom. I thanked her for doing her duty and told her I certainly would not have wanted my family depending on those two knuckleheads in an emergency.

Oh – and about that kharma? Remember the rude guy in the airport who cut off my children and was unrepentant and sarcastic about it? When the seating was rearranged before take-off, he ended up having to sit next to the foul-mouthed pair for the entire trip.

Sometimes, you get what you deserve.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dialogue Tags and Door Hinges

I was recently part of a (heated) online discussion about dialogue tags. I am going to leave out all names and even the name of the discussion forum, but it boils down to this:

Writer A asked Writer B to give feedback on her work. Writer B’s feedback suggested that Writer A had used too large a variety of dialogue tags and that professional authors only used said, replied, and asked. In particular, Writer B said that any agent would identify Writer A as an amateur by her use of breathed as a dialogue tag. “Dialogue tags should be like door hinges,” said Writer B. “They should do their job and be invisible to the reader.” According to this self-appointed authority, readers ignore said, replied, and asked, but their attention is drawn to screeched, gasped, and the dreaded breathed – thus pulling them out of the story.

As you can imagine, discussion on this forum exploded, and it wasn’t pretty. The definition of breathed was debated. (One definition is to speak in a breathy voice, btw.) Door hinges were debated – attractive and decorative door hinges are often desirable and add style to a room.

I watched the verbs fly from a safe distance for awhile, and then I decided to do a little research of my own. I went to my own bookcases and pulled three books off the shelves at random. (I closed my eyes, I swear.) Then I opened the book to pages that contained dialogue and started up a tally sheet.

Within 3 pages of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, I found the following tags: continued, declared, whispered, exclaimed, interrupted, and screeched. I found only a single said in those pages.

Within 3 pages of The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, I found said used extensively, but also: whispered, returned, improvised, counseled, and smiled. The exact quote on that one is "That's all right," he smiled. (In my opinion, smiling is not a proper speech tag, Philippa!)

The one author who used said the most was JK Rowling in The Order of the Phoenix. Still, she modified them with adverbs: said grimly, said angrily, said stiffly. (Aren’t adverbs supposed to be another big no-no?) Occasionally she did use other words: screamed, called, bellowed.

As a reader, do you notice the door hinges … er, dialogue tags? Would you prefer that every single one be either said, asked, or replied? As a writer, what is your style?

Personally, I leave off the dialogue tag when I can – when it's absolutely obvious who is speaking. But when I use them, I prefer to choose one that precisely describes the type of speech. And I cannot bear to use any speech tag twice in a row – or even on a page, if I can help it.

What about you?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Confessions of a Compulsive Writer

Today, while the Salerni family enjoys their first day at Universal Studios, I bring you an unprecedented guest post from Dread Daughter #1 -- a young lady unafraid to confess her writing sins in front of the blogosphere and her parents, apparently confident that none of her past or future teachers follow my blog.

Eh, she's probably right, there.

Confessions of a Compulsive Writer by Gabbey Salerni

Last year, my seventh grade teachers often asked me why I pulled out a pen and a notepad rather than a book during SSR time. I replied that I preferred writing, because I had difficulty staying focused on a book when I had a story I needed to write. Eventually, they let me write instead of read, but when I finished writing a story, they wouldn’t let me count it as a SSR book!

The truth is, school is one of my favorite places to do my creative writing —- usually during class, when the teacher just happens to be talking. So when my math teacher walked in and said, “Okay class, today we’re learning how to multiply polynomials,” I reached for my notebook and started writing.

However, this started to become a problem, especially when my math grades began to slip. I realized then that writing while the teacher was giving instruction probably wasn’t the best idea.

I’d already tried to do my writing during science class, but for some reason I couldn’t concentrate —- perhaps it had something to do with my teacher’s tendency to scream out parts of her sentence at random? Maybe, maybe.

My LA teacher didn’t mind me doing whatever in her class, because I was one of her A students —- but that was also the class where we were allowed to pick our seats. So I never got anything done, because I had my friend Rachel reading over my shoulder every second, despite my protests, and —- ahem —- threats.

Social Studies was the only class where I didn’t have a problem. The lights would often go out for a movie clip, during which I would “take notes”, or so my teacher assumed.

My notebooks were pretty much the only thing that got me through my most torturous class —- the dreaded Life Studies. When the teacher walked in and put a big poster diagram of the male reproductive system on the board, I knew exactly where to go.

I just hope I can get away with this stuff in eighth grade too.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gina's Review: Notes From a Liar and Her Dog

By the time you read this post, I’ll be at Disney with the family – hopefully having a fabulous time! If this is Monday (and by this time I may have lost track), we are probably at Magic Kingdom, based on my husband’s complex schedule. I know for certain that on Tuesday, the four of us will be taking the Aqua Seas Tour, snorkeling in the aquarium at Epcot! I did this 5 years ago with my older daughter, and it was awesome. I can’t wait for the four of us to do it together!

Today, I have a guest post from my itinerant book reviewer:

Gina’s Review: Notes From a Liar and Her Dog, by Gennifer Choldenko

A girl named Antonia (Ant for short) absolutely adores her dog Pistachio and will do anything for him. She’ll even sneak out her bedroom window while she’s grounded for him. Ant will get out of trouble by lying a lot. Ant has a friend named Harrison who likes to draw animals. So when Ant and Harrison’s art teacher asks them to join a zoo program, they agree. They have to do some interesting jobs there. But things get complicated when Ant brings Pistachio to the zoo because she has to give him a pill at 12:00 and all of her family hates the dog so she doesn’t want to leave him at home. Pistachio gets out of her pocket and goes in the lion cage, which ends up being very dangerous!

My favorite part is when Ant and Harrison are working at the zoo. It’s funny because one of the friends is feeding a gentle giraffe while the other is cleaning out a lion cage while a lion is growling from a different cage. Ant’s lying made her a very interesting character because no matter what she did she lied to get out of trouble. This is a really good book by Gennifer Choldenko and she is a good author. Any person who likes realistic fiction would like this book.

Thanks, Gina! It’s kind of awesome and amazing that my baby is old enough to write guest posts on my blog AND snorkel with me in a big fish tank at Epcot!