March 30, 2011

How Younique - Challenge #2!

Part of what makes scientific research work is participation!!!  Five lovely people stepped up for Challenge #1.  Let's see if we can double it for Challenge #2!  (And maybe Challenge #2 will be more appealing to you :))

For any of you who might not have read the comments, the responses to Challenge #1 were as follows:

1.  I never expected that one day I'd open my closet and find...
     ... a raccoon eating my underwear.
     ... a kangaroo napping.
     ... an eyebrowless gnome in an angel sweater, her pendulous stomach being balanced on tiny knees.
     ... a doorway to another world.

2.  It was obviously going to be an unusual day when my mom came into the bedroom and said...
     ..."Get up, princess!  Your prince is arriving at the west gate."
     ... "Are you ready to make a mess?"
     ... "Grab a diaper for your sister and your pirate eye patch and come with me."
     ... we were moving to the North Pole.

3.  He was afraid, but he called upon all the courage he had as...
     ... gulped down a spoonful of fishhead soup.
     ... he climbed the tree to retrieve the frisbee.
     ... his mother pushed the brussels sprouts under his nose; if Sam couldn't choke down at least three of the slimy green orbs, his tongue might never again experience the frigid splendor of mint-chocolate ice cream.
     ... he knew that Cora, his little sister, wouldn't be able to escape the evil dragon without his help.

Aren't these creative, unique and fun?  For anyone who suddenly feels motivated to join in, please feel free to add to Challenge #1.

Now, on to Challenge #2!  Use these three words in a sentence: bike, eyedropper, moon.  I can't wait to see what you all come up with.  Maybe in the interest of encouraging participation we should offer a prize.  Perhaps followers can vote on which sentences they think are the best, and the winner will receive something fun I have yet to think up....  Please include your thoughts on this in the comments :)  (Whether we should do it and what would be a good prize!)

Once again, I will not post people's responses until tomorrow (or possibly the next day since everyone is busy and doesn't get around to the blog every day.)

Ready, set, GO!

March 28, 2011

How Younique - Challenge #1!

First things first... there are only a couple hours left to bid on my books at Write Hope if any of you happen to be interested...

Now, onto today's topic: uniqueness (which doesn't quite sound like a real word...)

When I go on school visits, I'm always telling kids about the importance of their voices - because everyone is different, everyone's experiences and how they experience them are different, and no two people will tell a story the same way.  But I think it would be fun to see how true that really is....

So.  I'm hoping at least some of you are like me and can't resist a challenge :)

I will give you a sentence to complete.  (Actually, in the interest of encouraging more people to try it, I'll give you a couple to choose from - please feel free to do more than one!)  I hope lots of people will give it a try.  I won't post your responses until tomorrow and then we can see how different they all are!  (Really, we're like scientists here!)

1.  I never expected that one day I'd open my closet and find...
2.  It was obviously going to be an unusual day when my mom came into the bedroom and said...
3.  He was afraid, but he called upon all the courage he had as...

Tomorrow I will give you three words and see how different the sentences you come up with are (Challenge #2.)  And Wednesday we will take cliche's and try to make them new (Challenge #3.)

Please join in if you can.  We are conducting important research for the benefit of kids' education :)  I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with!  And what better way to take a little break from Monday's work?  Who knows, by finishing the sentence, you may come up with a story starter for yourself!  (Or when I post the responses tomorrow, you might find a story starter in someone else's sentence!)

P.S.  Due to an underwhelming response on Monday (*cough*) I'm going to leave this post up for another day in the hopes that I might get a few more participants, and do the 2nd and 3rd Challenges later in the week.  Please join the fun, the excitement, the ground-breaking scientific discovery!

March 24, 2011

The Second Challenge

So I'll probably be the last one to post for the Second Crusader Challenge, but better late than never, right?

This time, the challenge is to write a flash fiction story of 100 words or less beginning with, "The goldfish bowl teetered..."  For an extra challenge, you can try to write in your own genre.  You know me.  I love a challenge...

The goldfish bowl teetered in the basket of Jessie's bike.
"Be careful!" said Jenny.  "Without the fish, the deal is off!"
Jessie pedaled more carefully.  Jenny trotted alongside, hauling the red wagon, ready to grab the fish if it fell.
When they reached Bryan's house he looked the fish over and nodded in satisfaction.  "It's a deal," he said.
Jenny handed over the handle of the red wagon.  "Bye, Joey," said Jessie and Jenny.  "Remember," they told Bryan, "no backsies!"
So easy!  All it took to get rid of their pesky baby brother was a single goldfish!

97 words!  Not bad for the Queen of Longwindedness!  Anybody else want to try?

P.S.  A set of my books, inscribed to the winner's specifications, will be available for bidding on Write Hope tomorrow.  Please spread the word and bid if you can.  It's such an important cause.

UPDATED LINK FOR THE AUCTION!!!  Susanna's Books on Write Hope

March 23, 2011

25-27 Hours

I've decided 24 hours are not enough for a day.  I need more like 25-27.  There's simply too much to stuff into 24.  (Herein lies the reason that I'm a bit behind on my blog schedule...!)  I'm hoping to get an entry in to the 2nd Crusader Challenge because it looks fun, but I'm currently drowning in work and promotional postcards.  Where is my personal secretary when I need him?  (Oh, right... with my personal trainer, personal chef, personal chauffeur, and personal masseuse - in my personal good imagination!)

So in the interest of time management (not my strongest skill) today's post is pretty simple - just a little something I wanted to share.

When I do school visits, one of the things I tell the kids is that each of their voices is important.  Each person has things to say that no one else can say in quite the same way.  Each person's view of the world is unique.  And whether they share that view through writing, art, dance, music, or any other medium, it is theirs and theirs alone.

Yesterday, my husband showed me a quote from Martha Graham, and it turns out she says essentially the same thing (in her own way :)) and she's somebody famous :)

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open". from The Life and Work of Martha Graham

I find these words inspiring, comforting, empowering.  I hope you do, too.  Are there certain quotes that you find uplifting?  Please share!

March 18, 2011

School Visits

I love visiting schools.  Sharing my stories with the kids I write them for is a privilege.  Letting them see that authors are regular people, and encouraging them to pursue their own creativity in whatever form it may take, hopefully helps them believe that they, too, can be authors, illustrators, sculptors, musicians, or whatever their hearts desire.

For me it's been a work in progress, though.  I am not, by nature, the kind of person who wants to draw attention to herself, or who feels like she has any right standing up before a roomful of people and trying to impart anything.  I don't know about you, but the first time I had to face a roomful of kindergartners I was TERRIFIED!  You think I'm joking?  Uh-uh!  I was so nervous my teeth were literally chattering.  I had to clench my jaw to keep them still, and even that was uphill work.  And let me tell you, it's pretty hard to talk normally with your jaw clenched :)

Eight years and uncountable school visits later, it has gotten easier.  I still shake when I have to address adults (and I've got 2 of those gigs coming up the first week of April!) but I have reached a point where I truly enjoy visiting with kids.

I have discovered that there is a fine line between having them really engaged and all-out mayhem, and that line is a tricky one to walk with large groups of 5 and 6 year olds!  But I love that they are so enthusiastic that they all want to chime in.  There isn't much that's more fun for an author than having 60 kindergartners laughing so hard they're practically rolling on the floor (well, in some cases they actually are rolling on the floor!) or unabashedly joining in on an April Fools song they've never heard before but are perfectly willing to sing along with.  I wish I had a recording of them from Wednesday!

I try my best to make school visits fun and interactive for kids.  I remember being in a classroom when I was little.  There's not much that's more boring than having someone talk AT you.  So I have Phyllis and Woolliam/Baab - my puppets - who can always be counted on to be more entertaining than I am :)  I ask the kids a lot of questions so they get a chance to talk.  I make up songs related to the stories (songs that are always performed by the puppets - not me!) and encourage the kids to join in.  I show them the various steps to an idea becoming a picture book, tailoring the amount of detail to the age and interest of the audience.  I wish I could draw.  I think illustrators have a big leg up on authors because they can create something in front of the crowd.  The kids think they are magic!  But alas, for me a stick figure is about as artistic as I get.

But I am always open to new ideas.  I know there are other authors who read this blog, as well as teachers and parents.  What do you do on school visits?  Or what do you think would be fun and entertaining for the 4-8 year old crowd?

March 16, 2011

Write Hope

I wasn't going to post this morning because I'm rushing off to a big school visit.  But the devastation in Japan has been on my mind, as I'm sure it's on everyone else's.  When I saw that Rachael Harrie and some friends had gotten together to do something to help, I wanted to join the effort and spread the word to anyone else who might be interested.

Rach, along with Marieke, Luna, Tessa Quin, and Amanda Milner have formed Write Hope.  Here is the plan:

"Right now we’re working hard to set up a charity auction, auctioning off all things kidlit. ARCs, books, critiques, swag. Donations are stacking up and we’ve only just started!

Over the next couple of days we’ll post details of the auction on the blog: the when, the how, the what.

Write Hope is a very proud sponsor of the Save the Children emergency relief fund for Japan.

Please, please help. Spread the word. Follow along at Write Hope. Take part in the auction. Spread the word.

As we said on Write Hope: Together we can move mountains.

Thank you!"

 If you are a writer (or anyone else) with something to offer the auction, please let them know.  If you have nothing to auction but would still like to help, please consider spreading the word and bidding when the time comes.

There but for the grace of God...

March 15, 2011

A Few Words About Postcards...

So it turns out marketing is a hotter topic than I realized.  People are pretty interested.

In response to a question about postcards, I promised to post pictures of my most recent ones, so here they are:

Here's the front of the April Fool, Phyllis postcard...
... and here's the back
I really like how Jeff was able to put the Punxsutawney Phyllis cover on the front, since April Fool is a sequel.

And here's the front of the Can't Sleep Without Sheep postcard...
... and here's the back.
(It's hard to see that the back of the Can't Sleep postcard does actually extend to the right so there's room for the address and stamp, but it's there!)

I am so lucky to have talented illustrators to work with!  The basic information on the postcards is just the book cover, a review or two, website, and school visit information.

I hope that helps answer the questions about the postcards.  These two were both made on Vista Print (not by me! - one by Mike Wohnoutka and the other by Jeff Ebbeler - I'm still learning how to upload templates to Vista Print...) but I've also heard good things about GotPrint and I personally have used Zazzle a number of times because it's so easy to work with for the non-computer savvy such as yours truly :)

In answer to another question about supplemental materials, I have made a lot of them myself - the classroom guides to the early books, madlibs, library activities, word searches etc., but my wonderful illustrators have been terrific abut making coloring and activity pages to go along with the books - fun things that teachers can use in school, or that parents can download for fun at home.  They are all on the School Visit page of my website, along with the new fancy classroom guides for April Fool, Phyllis! (and coming soon for Can't Sleep Without Sheep.)  I just asked Jeff, Nicole, and Mike for what I wanted, and they put their own creative spin on it.  Then we can all post the activities on our websites.

I hope that answers some of the questions, but please feel free to ask more, and also share things that have worked for you!

March 14, 2011

I'm A Guest! - Let's Talk Marketing

So guess what?

Alison Stevens invited me to guest post on her blog this morning for Marketing Monday!  I'm so excited, because this is my first guest post ever!  I feel so sought after :)

Please pop over to her blog here and read about what I have done in the wide, wide world of marketing (about which I knew absolutely nothing and had to figure out everything the hard way - by trial and lots of error.)  You can also look back in her posts for marketing advice from other authors - very interesting and helpful.

I've also already thought of a couple things I left out when I was writing the post for her.  One of them is Amazon.  Amazon ratings and reviews are very helpful (as long as they're mostly good :)) but it's surprisingly hard to get them.  If you aren't famous enough that everyone already knows about you - in which case you probably don't need the ratings and reviews so much - you're not likely to get too many.

So, if it should happen that someone tells me they like one of my books, I usually ask them, if they have a minute,  if they would be so kind as to quickly write a sentence or two that sums up what they just said on Amazon.  Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't.  I also seek out Top 10, 100, or 500 Reviewers and ask if they'd be willing to read and review my books.  I can't afford to send out billions of copies, so I usually just ask two or three.  So far I've been lucky - most have said they'd be willing to read the books, and they've given me nice reviews - but that is a risk you take.  If they don't like the book, you could find you've gone out of your way to ask someone for what turns out to be a negative review with extra weight because it's from a Top Reviewer.  I can't say whether the Top Reviewer reviews have actually helped sales or not, but I figure they're not hurting them...

If any of you have writer friends with books on Amazon though, you can help them by posting nice reviews with good ratings (if you honestly feel the book deserves it.)

The other thing I forgot to mention was bookmarks... which I am just in the process of making now, thanks to my daughter who is a lot more computer savvy than I am.  When they're all done, I'll post a picture on the blog so you can see them :)

I think I also forgot to mention that I am on JacketFlap and GoodReads.  I think it's helpful (hopefully) to be part of the reading community.  I love to read and discuss books, I usually post giveaways when I have a new book coming out, and it's fun to see what friends and colleagues are reading and liking.

A lot of this blog's followers are writers - what do you do for marketing?  Do you belong to JacketFlap?  GoodReads?  Other similar groups?  Do you have marketing tips that you have found especially helpful?  Please share!  And don't forget to check out the rest of my experience in marketing, such as it is :), on Alison's blog!

March 10, 2011

My Favorite Picture Book Blogfest

Yikes!  In the rush of morning preparations that precede a school visit, I forgot that today was March 10, the day of Megan Bickel's Favorite Picture Book Blogfest!  As I was second on the list of participants (right after Megan herself!) I really can't let this one slide under the rug.  Besides, as you might have guessed by my blog and the books I write myself, I LOVE picture books :)

I love them so much that picking one is simply impossible.  I will try very hard to confine myself to 3.  But I could probably choose 100 pretty easily!

Someone already mentioned The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf - the hazard of coming late to the party.  That is certainly one of my all time favorites.  But since someone else did it, that one doesn't count for me :)


Bread and Jam for Frances
Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban

I love all the Frances books, but this one is my favorite.  Frances is cute and lovable and so delightfully determined to eat nothing but bread and jam.  I had a picky eater in my house, so I understand both the child's desire to stay with what's known and loved, and the mom's frustration that she won't try something new.  Frances's mom is a wise badger, though, and pretty soon frances comes to realize on her own that food can be delicious even if it isn't at first familiar.  The story, like all of Russell Hoban's writing, has a wonderful rhythm for read-aloud, and the art is simple but engaging.

That's 1.

Mike Mulligan
Next up, a story that would probably never have been published today due to its extensive word count - Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton.  I loved this book as a child, and all of my children, regardless of gender, loved it as well many years later.  I love how Mike refuses to abandon his beloved Mary Anne, how he takes such good care of her that she can still shovel more in a day than a hundred men could dig in a week.  I love the rhythm of the language... "They crawled along slowly up the hills and down the hills till they came to the little town of Popperville..." and "Now the girl who answers the telephone called up the next towns of Bangerville and Bopperville and Kipperville and Kopperville and told them what was happening in Popperville."  And I love the inventive solution that makes everyone happy and still useful.

Third, I would choose The Camel Who Took A Walk by Jack Tworkov, a lovely, quiet story that would never have sold today because it's too quiet, but which again has such a wonderful rhythm to the language that it's a joy to read aloud.  The pictures are very simple, done is shades of blue for the forest before the sun comes up, and then in pink and gold for the beautiful camel, who "turns her pretty head this way and that."  Alas, this one is out of print, but we still love it.

So those are the three I said I would contain myself to, and I'll only quickly mention Make Way for Ducklings, Guess How Much I Love You, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Where The Wild Things Are (which was also previously mentioned by another blogger), The Kissing Hand, To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, Madeline, the original Curious George.... OK, I'll stop :)

Hi-ho, Hi-ho, It's Off To School We Go

Today's post will be short and sweet (I know, hard to believe coming from me) but seriously, I'm already out of time!

Last year, when I asked what you called taking a groundhog, a sheep, a hamster, an airplane pilot, a freight train engineer, a construction foreman, a taxi driver, and a couple of unruly boys on a school visit, a friend said, "It's a Phyllistravaganza!" - which seemed just about right.

So today the Phyllistravaganza and I (really, we're kind of like a traveling circus) are headed to a big school visit where we will be seeing upwards of 200 kids.  We're just a little nervous, truth be told, because Phyllis is still struggling to come up with a truly great and memorable April Fools Day song to sing.  We like to go with familiar tunes and put in our own special brand of words, but this one is a toughie.  Luckily we still have driving time, and the car might inspire us if Phyllis can manage to focus instead of waving to passersby and making funny faces.

If anyone has any brilliant ideas, we're open to suggestion at this point.  You have one hour :)  But we'll take suggestions after that, too, in case we have to make due today and come up with something better for next week when we're doing it again.

Wish us luck!

March 8, 2011

Why Writing Is Fun :)

Today is all about gratitude, and some of the things that make writing fun :)

Anyone who is a writer will tell you writing is hard work.  You put in long hours with no guarantee that anyone besides you will ever read the words you struggled to get just right.  Hopefully you're not in it for the money, because in children's publishing it will probably be a while before you can quit your day job.  But if you're lucky, your stories will go out into the world and you'll have some moments like these.

Today I want to share three things that have happened in the last three weeks that make all the long hours and at least some of the rejection letters worthwhile :)

1.  A librarian in California whom I have never met, wrote me this note about Can't Sleep Without Sheep and sent these pictures:

I finally got to share your beautiful book with the kids and they loved it. Thanks so much for the link to the coloring pages. I took pictures of some of the kids having fun coloring them and thought I would share them with you. Thanks so much and I can't wait to read more of your writing in the future.

Wasn't it so nice of her to take the time to write this note and send pictures?

2.  A mom who bought Can't Sleep Without Sheep took time out of her busy schedule to send me this note:

I have not in recent memory had my daughter beg for a book more and laugh harder than she did with this book. The chickens that make such a concerted effort to scale the fence and very comically fail makes her laugh so hard that her 5 year old little face turns bright red and she actually tears up. I was forced to re-read that page 4 times tonight. 

There is really nothing better than ability to make a child happy; maybe only making MY child happy :-).  Thank you

Knowing they liked it makes me happy!

3.  I visited a school last week and yesterday received a packet of letters - one of my absolute favorite things about school visits.  It doesn't happen that often, but when it does, it's priceless, and I cherish the notes and pictures that young readers took time to send.  Here are a few of the letters about April Fool, Phyllis!:
He's referring to Phyllis's song :)
...and here's his picture of me with my Phyllis puppet singing :)
Awesome handwriting, no? and I would love to do another book about Phyllis!
Someone who appreciates effort :)
A budding artist (with great taste in books :))
This is one of my favorites!  Short and sweet!  I think this is me, sitting in the chair, reading :)
Me, too!
So sweet!

So there you have it - the little things that make my days!  For me, knowing that even one child enjoyed one of my stories is what it's all about.  (And you may all feel free to remind me of this the next time I'm fretting about rejection letters :))  Thanks for letting me share :)

March 7, 2011

Winning Big And A Thought-Provoking Question!

Well, really, there's no better way to start a Monday than with prizes, is there?  So let's get right to it!

I'm afraid I love games and contests more than you guys do.  Sigh.  Out of all my lovely and devoted followers, only two (that's 2!) submitted entries for the Guess The Children's Picture Book Contest celebrating Read Across America.  I confess, I was disappointed.  But not in my two contestants.  In fact, given their stellar responses and the fact that they were the only two to step up to the plate, I have decided to give BOTH of them a copy of April Fool, Phyllis!

So the winners are: Teri and Cindy!!!  * Round of loud applause and wild cheering! *  Congratulations on your superior knowledge of children's picture books!  Please use the "email me" button on the right hand side of the blog to let me know how you would like your book signed, and the address to which you would like it mailed!  Many thanks for participating!  (And for those of you who are curious about what the books were, please scroll down and check out Teri and Cindy's answers to the Read Across America and A Prize post from Wednesday March 2.)

I am going to have a few more copies of April Fool, Phyllis! to give away, so maybe you guys better chime in and tell me what kinds of games/contests you would participate in.  It's more fun if more people join in :)

And now, in the interest of a story I'm pondering, here is the thought-provoking question of the day:

Would you rather be forced to tell your best friend a lie, or tell your parents the truth?  (Oh, and I should mention you are a 12 year old girl :))  What is your reasoning?  (And for Monty Python fans, what is your favorite color? :))

Looking forward to your thoughts!

March 2, 2011

Read Across America and A PRIZE!!!

I will not post contestants' responses until all entries are in so that no one has an unfair advantage :)  But be assured if you posted your answers, I've got them!

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!  Not even one speck of rain, ice or snow (except for the thigh-deep stuff still on the ground) :)  So in celebration of this beautiful morning, Read Across America, and April Fool, Phyllis's Book Birthday yesterday (and because it is Wednesday and we all need a little fun to boost us toward the end of the week) I have decided to host a game/contest with a PRIZE!!!

Anyone who has hung around this blog for any length of time knows I can't go very long without some kind of contest :)

So here it is:

Since it's Read Across America week and we should all be encouraging kids to enjoy the delights of reading, I will post 25 first lines of well-known picture books.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the title and author of each book!

The prize?  (Well, I think it's a prize!)  The winner will receive a personalized signed copy of April Fool, Phyllis (it is her book birthday after all) hot off the presses!

The rules are:
1.  You must be a follower of this blog.
2.  You must list all 25 titles and authors correctly.
3.  You must post your answer by 5 PM EST Sunday March 6 (see how nice I'm being - giving you more than the usual 2 days?)

I will announce the winner in Monday morning's post, with plenty of time to mail the book before April Fool's Day!

Happy Reading with your kids and happy writing your contest answers everyone!  Good luck and have fun!

Here are the first lines:

1.  This is Olivia.
2.  When I leave home to walk to school, Dad always says to me, "Marco, keep your eyelids up and see what you can see."
3.  The day Helen gave Martha dog her alphabet soup, something unusual happened.
4.  Chester Raccoon stood at the edge of the forest and cried.
5.  This is the house.  The house on East 88th Street.
6.  The big hand of the clock is at 12.
7.  One day Little Sal went with her mother to Blueberry Hill to pick blueberries.
8.  I'm Emily Elizabeth, and I have a dog.
9.  Ava had a hard time falling asleep.
10.  Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country.
11.  In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.
12.  Once upon a time there were four little rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter.
13.  Lilly loved school.
14.  Harry was a white dog with black spots who liked everything, except... getting a bath.
15.  The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him "WILD THING" and Max said, "I'LL EAT YOU UP!" so he was sent to bed without eating anything.
16.  One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.
17.  Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young duck named Ping.
18.  Chug, chug, chug.  Puff, puff, puff.  Ding-dong, ding-dong.
19.  Farmer Brown has a problem.
20.  In the great forest a little elephant is born.
21.  Little Nutbrown Hare, who was going to bed, held on tight to Big Nutbrown Hare's very long ears.
22.  In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.
23.  Once there was a tree... and she loved a little boy.
24.  Once upon a time there was a very old man and a very old woman.
25.  One Christmas Eve, many years ago, I lay quietly in my bed.

P.S.  I discovered this was surprisingly hard to make difficult!  So many first lines include the character's name, which totally gives it away!  Next time, I think I'll try last lines!  But at the very least, this will hopefully give you all a list of great books to read with your young friends... :)

I will not post contestants' responses until all entries are in so that no one has an unfair advantage :)  But be assured if you posted your answers, I've got them!

March 1, 2011

Oh, What A Morning!!!


So you all know I was headed to the Big Apple yesterday for an author visit with my niece's school. Such a simple thing, really.  I do school visits all the time.

My plan was foolproof: put my youngest daughter on the school bus, run back to the house, grab my school visit stuff, be guilt-tripped by my faithful writing buddies (who I was about to leave home alone for many hours with only a couple visits from Grammy and Grandpa to relieve boredom and calls of nature) and head to the city with plenty of time.
faithful writing buddies
You've probably already guessed that's not quite what happened...!

(This is the moment when you should make sure you have a fresh cup of coffee and a little something yumptious, because I confess this post runs a little long...:))

Have I mentioned that our house is 6/10 of a mile from the bus stop, around a number of curves that make it impossible for me and the bus driver to see each other until the last minute?  This has been the situation for 13 years of bus riding, so as a result I ALWAYS call the bus when we're not taking it so the bus driver doesn't waste time waiting.  In return, I hope that the bus driver will give us an extra moment - the benefit of the doubt, if you will - if we happen not to be there when she pulls up.

Since I work from home, most days it doesn't matter more than a little wasted gas if something goes awry with the bus.

Yesterday being a day when I really needed my daughter to ride the bus, I made sure we arrived at the stop on time.

No bus.

(I would like to supply a photo of the empty bus-less icy road in the the driving rain here, but not knowing I was at the front end of an epic morning, I didn't have my camera with me :))

Well, I consoled myself, the weather is dreadful - freezing rain, icy roads - maybe she's just taking her time.

One minute.  Two minutes.  Five minutes went by.  No bus.

Now, normally I have my cell phone with me so I can call the bus depot if there's a question.  But yesterday, knowing I would be away from home for many hours, I wanted to make sure it was fully charged.  Hence, when I grew panicky at the five minute late mark, I groped in my pocket for my cell phone only to discover I'd left it charging on the kitchen counter 6/10 of a mile away around a number of curves...

So we waited a little more.

Six minutes.  Seven minutes.  Ten minutes.  No bus.

Now I knew I was in deep doo-doo (pardon my French!)

Back up the icy road, around the curves, 6/10 of a mile to our house.  Up the icy steps at breakneck speed. Speed dial the bus depot.  "What happened to the bus?" I asked with that very attractive high panicky pitch to my voice.

"Let's see," the depot master said bemusedly.

The long and the short of it was - substitute driver arrived early, didn't read the running sheet saying call the house if we weren't at the stop, didn't wait until anything close to our time, and LEFT WITHOUT US!!!

DEEP doo-doo.

So instead of my calm, foolproof plan, I raced around like a deranged chicken, grabbing my stuff, shoving it in the car, racing through a quick email to my niece's school warning them I would most probably be late, and heading off up the icy road to my daughter's school - which, incidentally, is in the opposite direction from the city.

About 3 miles into the 13 mile drive, we got behind a sanding truck, driving down the middle of the road, spewing salt and sand in all directions over the icy surface.  There could be no passing.  We drove a maximum of 15 mph for the remaining 10 miles while I watched the minutes tick by on the dashboard clock and tried to remain calm... not very successfully I might add.  My poor daughter...

At last she was safely at school and I could head for the city.  I was now leaving nearly 45 minutes later than I had planned to from a distance that was half an hour further away.  And the roads were still icy.  And it was still a driving downpour.  Not great conditions for making time!  (And nobody better bring up the speeding ticket incident... (s)...!)


...then rain slick roads...
...followed by traffic jam number one...
...and traffic jam number two....
And I didn't even take pictures of traffic jam number three because by that time I was far too panicky!  (Although, if anyone asks, I was certainly not driving and taking pictures at the same time!)  And we won't even mention the two cups of coffee I had in lieu of breakfast that began demanding to be acknowledged about 45 minutes into the trip!

I pulled into 90th street at 10:07, had to back up and squidge over to allow a cop car to back up past me, wasting precious moments.  On the next block, my first good luck of the day - a parking garage with vacancy!  I dashed in, grabbed my stuff, practically snatched the ticket from the parking attendant, and ran, literally ran flat out, through the driving rain to my niece's school (although I had the foresight to tuck Phyllis and Woolliam and my other valuables under my jacket, since I did not have the foresight to grab my umbrella out of the back of the car :))

I dashed into the school, dripping wet, out of breath and, remarkably, only 12 minutes late, to find 4 first grade classes waiting patiently for me in the library.  No time to catch my breath or acknowledge that coffee - it was show time - for three straight groups in a row, from 10:12 - 11:50.

But what a beautiful library, and what a wonderful group of kids!  The morning drama was well worth it because after all that?  We had a good time :)

Of course, the copy of the book I had moved mountains to get in time for the visit so I could give it to my niece afterwards didn't arrive.  (I read off the F&G, which was no easy task - as you know, F&Gs are unbound, so when you try to hold them up so everyone can see, they have a tendency to fall all over the floor.  This supplied much hilarity, however.  I explained to the third group that I had already dropped the F&G about 20 times, and halfway through reading to them, it fell once again, prompting a sharp tack in the back row to shout "21!")

Anyway, after all the drama of getting there, the visit was such fun!

And guess what was waiting on my porch when I got home?
Confession - this photo was staged this morning; when I arrived home yesterday, the book was in a sodden brown cardboard wrapping in the rain :)
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