Friday, December 31, 2010

End of the Year Thoughts

My biggest goal for 2010 was to do less. I entered the year overwhelmed and just plain exhausted so I vowed that in 2010 I would do less and refuse to let things in life control me.

I failed miserably. And I can't say that I'm upset about that, because I've come to realize that being tired and overwhelmed isn't always a bad thing if the things that are occupying your time are good things.

I'm often tired because I've spent my week teaching my kids who are partially home schooled. I've attended their swimming, piano, guitar, Lego team practices.

I've led my girl scout troop through cookie sales and surf camps and nature hikes and countless meetings to help them earn badges and learn new things.

I've connected with friends on Facebook, and attended get-togthers with others where we laughed and talked until we were too tired to continue.

I traveled to Spain with my mom and learned a bit more about one of the branches of my latino roots.

I've gotten to hold my baby niece in my arms and watch my brother become a dad.

I've read books and gone to book club meetings.

I've tutored young kids in writing, and gotten involved in university life where I've been able to read the work of young, talented new writers and provide feedback on their work.

I've made a full year's progress toward my MFA.

I've blogged to you all about my life and thoughts.

I completed a new book that will be out next year, and am almost finished with a draft of another book.

I've cooked, and cleaned my house, and walked my dogs, and done tons of chores that aren't much fun, cut make living much nicer.

So, for 2011, I've decided I don't want to do less. I want to do and have more this time around, because I can't imagine giving up any of it. More fun, more friends, for great times with my kids. I want to write more than I did last year. I want more money (okay, I wanted that last year too!). I want to read more books. I want to work out more and have more energy. I want more happiness. I want more time . . .

I'm glad that I didn't get what I wanted in 2010, but look forward to 2011 and my new overarching goal.

I hope 2011 brings more of what you want as well!

Happy New Year!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Latino Book and Family Festival

Just a quick recap of the Latino Book and Family Festival. This was one of the best weekends I've had in a long time. I actually went a day early and attended a few panel discussions. I bought popcorn and watched the dancers on stage. I walked the booths and chatted with friends I haven't seen in a long time. And best of all, was able to meet many many readers who have read my Lara Rios books. Loved meeting you all!

I won't spend too much time going over details because La Bloga has done such an amazing job already that I don't need to. Visit their site to check it out:

If you were unable to make the LBFF, please join me on Satuday, October 16 at 11am at the Frugal Frigate in Redlands, CA.

On October 18th at 6pm at the Highland library I'll be speaking about book publishing and sharing my experiences as a Latina author.

Lilian de la Torre-Jimenez, award-winning journalist and publisher of Boda Magazine and Mujer Empresaria, the first Spanish digital magazine for Latina entrepreneurs will discuss her journey of delivering news for Latinos via print media and what it takes to become a journalist for major newspapers and magazines.

When: October 18, 2010
Where: Highland Sam J. Racadio Library
& Environmental Learning Center
Time: 6:00pm – 7:30pm

Have a great weekend!! Hope to see you!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Interview with Author Paulina Jaramillo

As part of Hispanic Heritage month, this week I've interviewed an author from my hometown in the Inland Empire. After reading the interview and learning about her book, you'll understand why I thought she was a perfect author to highlight for Hispanic Heritage month. I hope you enjoy meeting Paulina Jaramillo:

Julia: Hi Paulina, can you tell me about your book, The American Southwest, and why you decided to write it?

Paulina: My book, The American Southwest: Pride~Prejudice~Perseverance, is an overview of the development of the Southwest (the border states only) and the contributions that Latinos have made and continue to make despite enormous hardships
Section One covers the early inhabitants of the Southwest (the ancient Native Americans) as well as the Spanish and Mexican Periods. Sections Two and Three focus primarily on the struggles, triumphs and contributions of Mexican and Mexican-Americans. Section Four looks at the immigration issue (past & present) effecting Latinos. Section Five examines the role of Latinos in education. The book includes graphs, a glossary and a well-documented bibliography.
I love the Southwest. I was born in NM. Our family history goes back over 400 years in the Land of Enchantment. This is a book that’s near and dear to my heart.

Julia: As a long time teacher, this book really excites me! What a great resource. How long did you work on this project?

Paulina: I devoted approximately 4.5 months to the project. I still remember with a shudder the week I spent doing nothing else but writing and re-writing (seventeen hours a day) toward the end of the project in order to meet a deadline!

Julia: Wow, that's amazingly quick, actually!! This is the type of book I would have loved to read in my Chcano Studies classes. Is there a plan to offer it to colleges for their programs?

Paulina: The American Southwest: Pride~Prejudice~Perseverance is currently being reviewed by the University Librarian Dean and the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies at California State University, San Bernardino. I plan to offer it to other universities as well for inclusion in their Chicano Studies Courses.

Julia: Great! I hope they pick it up. So, let's talk about you as an author. Have you always been a writer? Or have you pursued other careers as well?

Paulina: My Master’s degree is in Rehabilitation Counseling. The previous two books that I wrote, A Time To Heal and Life Interrupted deal with grief recovery resulting from any type of loss: Foreclosure, employment, divorce, health, bereavement, etc. I also conduct workshops on grief recovery. I will be doing a book signing and workshop at Borders Books in Montclair on October 9, 2010 (1-3 pm).
My professional writing career began while I was in graduate school. I wrote for the Inland Empire Hispanic News and did freelance writing for magazines and other publications.

Julia: Since this is Hispanic Heritage month, can you share a little about your Latina background?

Paulina: I’m proud of my culture and consider myself a positive role model.

Julia: What future projects do you have planned?

Paulina: I have a few ideas but nothing concrete yet.

Julia: Well, make sure and let me know when you do! Thank you for being my guest today, Paulina!

Paulina: Thank you so much for including me in the piece you’re posting on your blog in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

If bloggers want to meet Paulina, make sure to attend her book signing at Borders on October 9th. We are also doing a joint book signing at The Frugal Frigate in Redlands on October 16th at 11am.

Also, make sure to check out Paulina's website:

Have a great weekend everyone!!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

If you've never heard of Hispanic Heritage Month don't feel bad, lots of people haven't. And maybe one of the reasons is that we don't actually have a "month". We have 30 days that begin on September 15th and end on October 15th.

This period of time is supposed to celebrate the contributions of Hispanic-Americans to our country. Since the USA has a long history of Hispanic possession and rule ranging from the first Spanish continuous settlement in St. Augustine, Florida to the Spanish colonial rule of much of the southwest, for those of us with Latino blood it offers a great opportunity to remind ourselves and other Americans what we've contributed to the building of our nation.

SO, I'd like to do my part by celebrating Latinas in the literary world, since this is where my personal contribution lies. I'm starting by interviewing Belinda Acosta for the Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. To register for the teleconference, click on this link:

About the author: Belinda Acosta lives and writes in Austin, Texas where she is a columnist forthe Austin Chronicle. Her non-fiction has appeared in Poets and Writers, LatinoUSA, the Radio Journal of News and Culture, AlterNet, the San Antonio Current,and Latino Magazine. She is a member of Macondo, the writers' collectivelaunched by acclaimed writer Sandra Cisneros.She loves knitting, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, chips & salsa, mariachi (good,make your soul leap from your body, mariachi); conjunto music (todo oldschool), and given the opportunity, will square dance. Damas, Dramas, and AnaRuiz is her first novel.

About the book: Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over. When Beatriz Sanchez-Milligan turned her back on her troubled sister, sheushered in a lifetime of regret. So when the niece Beatriz never knew she hadappeares on her doorstep--announcing that her mother has died--she can't helpbut see fourteen-year-old Celeste as a chance to redo the past...despite herown family's objections.But Celeste is skittish around her new family. She can feel the tensionradiating from her uncle and cousins and, despite her aunt's enthusiasm, ishesitant to share her dreams of the traditional quinceanera she and her motherhad been planning. Overwhelmed, Celeste does what her mom did years ago: she vanishes...
In addition to blog interviews, I'll be participating in a few author panels and book signings. See dates below:
October 4th: Highland Library - 6pm
October 9th - Evening with the Authors - 6pm
October 10th - Latino Book and Family Festival - presenting Happily Ever After: Writing Women's Fiction. 1pm in the Salazar room
October 16th - Frugal Frigate Bookstore book signing in Redlands, California - 11am
Hope you'll join me at one or all of these events!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Frustration Kills Creativity

Well, we're now one month into the school year, and it's been a frustrating start. I've home schooled my kids from the beginning of their educational "career", but decided to team up with a charter school a few years back. It was a good decision in many ways. The kids did all the academic stuff at home, but got to go to fun workshops ranging from Robotics to Art study to cooking at the learning center. They met and became friends with other children whose parents also home school. And as a parent it's been helpful to connect with other parents and educators at the charter.

But as the charter expanded, they decided to add an academy where most of the "schooling" is done at their site while two days are home study days. I've decided to try it and see how the kids and I like it. But unfortunately, academically this academy is so weak that I'm having to supplement work daily and feeling like I might as well go back to home schooling.

I know that no school is perfect, and a school can't meet everyone's expectations perfectly, so I'm trying to be patient. It hasn't been easy, and it's been consuming soooo much of my time. So for the first time ever I'm sitting at my desk at night and even though I know what I want to write and am usually looking forward to it the entire day, the words just aren't coming out when I finally flip the lap top open. And the words that are stumbling off my fingertips . . . suck.

I don't believe in writer's block, but is there such a thing as life zapping out your creativity? Can you get psychological help for that? Tell a thearpist my children's education is to blame? Probably not.
This weekend, I'm taking my girls scout troop surfing in San Diego. A few days on the beach will most likely be the best therapy : )
Happy weekend to all!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Spain and Fall plans

I've decided to return to my blog after way too long an absence. I hate to neglect my blog - but it's been for good reason. Following my trip to Spain, I came home to many things the "had to be done", but mostly with renewed inspiration and have been working on a new book AND sort of reorganizing my goals and life. Will tell you about it, but first I've gotta share my pictures from Spain:

Had to include a picture of this guy who serenaded us through the streets of Seville. He was great! The food was fantastic and the architecture, especially the cathedrals, were breathtaking and made you feel like somehow modern generations have lost the ability to create the kind of art that is so grand that you feel a connection to something bigger than yourself. But I have say that the best part of the trip was spending ten days with my mom. I'm so grateful that I got to share this dream with her and I sort of found a vein of a connection to my Spanish roots that I've never felt before.

So, now, back home, I've delved into my work, trying to decide which novel I'd like to write next. I'm gearing up for Hispanic Heritage month and am planning a number of presentations in October at the Latino Book and Family Festival, the Highland Library and Environmental Center, and the Frugal Frigate Bookstore. One of my revived goals is to get out more into the community for speaking engagements to offer support to other writers and meet readers. Information about these events can be found on my website:
I've also realized that I can be ten times more productive if I get better organized. So even though I'm dying to start some of my new writing projects, I'm holding off and spending a lot of time organizing (I'm the most disorganized person in the world) and I hope that this will make my life less stressful and make me more productive.
Future travel goals? I'm thinking Italy, Argentina, and Korea. Anyone want to go with me?
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spanish Roots

Tonight I'm sitting in Seville, Spain, happy to have internet service to have a chance to update my blog, while my mother is telling me I'm crazy to worry about "work" when I'm on vacation. She's right, of course, except that I'm constantly working. As we climb onto our bus every morning to join the tour, in my head I'm conducting research. I'm not sure if Spain will show up in my next book or the one after, but as some of you tht are writers know, it's difficult not to study places you visit and not think of it in terms of a setting for a book. This is especially true for a place as gorgeous as Spain.
I'll be in Seville for a couple of days, then it's back to Madrid for a two more days before I head home. This will be the place where I conduct some real research. Since my great grandparents were from Spain, my mother and I are going to go to the library and try to do a bit of ancestory research and see what we can dig up. This has been an interest of hers for a long time and I'm sort of interested too.
Next week, I'll post some pictures!


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rights to Literacy Campaign

As an author and former teacher, a mother of young children and a Latina-American who adores and credits libraries and books with the fact that she had the opportunity to become literate, I'm very proud to be participating in a rights to literacy campaign this weekend at my local library.

The best way for me to share information about this event is to let the two fabulous ladies running the events this weekend speak for themselves.

Linda Adams, Computer Lab Coordinator

Paula Miller, Literacy Program Coordinator

Julia: The Norman F. Feldheym Library always has so many great events for the community. You have an upcoming event this weekend. Can you share what the Delcaration to the Rights to Literacy National Literacy Campaign is, and what the public will be signing between July 31st and August 3rd?

Linda and Paula: In June 2009 at the National Community Literacy Conference, a Right to Literacy Convention convened. Delegates from across the country discussed and voted on the U. S. Declaration for the Right to Literacy.

The need is clear – tens of millions of adults and children do not have the skills needed to succeed in life. Literacy is the number one tool to make change and impact economic prosperity. The right to literacy must be a National priority!

The Declaration of the Right to Literacy is supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The Right to Literacy Declaration scroll has traveled the country and has been signed by tens of thousands of supporters. The scroll is making its way to the White House and is expected to be presented to President Obama in September 2010 for Literacy Awareness month.

Julia: Wow, that's exciting! I can't wait to sign it. I agree that being literate is the a great determiner of success in life. I always told my students that if they learned to read, they could learn about anything that interested them. It opens doors to their future.

Linda and Paula: Yes, literacy is essential to ensure prosperity for the nation and self determination for the individual. Changes at the national, regional and local level must take place.

Julia: What events will you have and are they open to the public?

Linda and Paula:

On Saturday, July 31 11:00 am to 4:00 pm we have the Local Author Event you'll be participating in. The “Right to Literacy” -- Authors in Support of Literacy

Local Authors will be invited to display, promote and sell their books as well as sign the Literacy Scroll to show their support.

The public will also be encouraged to sign and view the Scroll.

On Tuesday, August 3 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm we'll have - “Right to Literacy” – A Local Celebrations. Jack L. Hill Literacy Center Open House 3:00 – 5:00 pm

An Open House will showcase the Literacy Department of the Library and will be a precursor to the evening event highlighting the Scroll

Well have speakers 6:00 – 7:00 pm

Local Education and Literacy Advocates speak about their lives and work in promotion of a more literate America.

Speakers will include: Miss Dorothy Inghram
Mr. John Weeks
Mr. Phil Yeh

Reception 7:00 – 8:00 pm

Local politicians and other dignitaries will be invited to sign the “Declaration for the Right to Literacy” Scroll.

These events are open to the public

Julia: What other programs or events are available at the library throughout the year to encourage Literacy?

Linda and Paula:
The Jack L. Hill Literacy Center at the library provides basic literacy, ESL and citizenship classes as well as homework assistance to school age youth to over 450 adults per year. Today the Literacy Center is venturing into helping people with job seeking and preparation. Although this has always been a small portion of what our adult learners are taught, this year finds us working more diligently on this topic.

The library also has a summer reading program for children and teens. We also have early literacy, baby story time and preschool story times to encourage families to be involved in their children’s reading.
Julia: My students in the past, and my own children have participated in some of these programs, like the summer reading program, so I know they are wonderful. Thank you so much for all you do, and I look forward to seeing you on Saturday!
I encourage anyone who lives close to the library to stop by and sign the scroll!
Here is the library address:
555 W. 6th St.
San Bernardino, Ca. 92410

Friday, July 23, 2010

Taste Wine Like a Professional

I'm desperately trying to finish up re-writes on my next book set in a winery in Temecula and partially in Mendoza, Argentina. So today will be a short blog on how to properly taste wine. Books on wine tasting promise that the more times you do this, the more you'll develop your palate -- though I'm not sure I'm buying this. The more wine I taste, the drunker I get, and the more they all start tasting the same. But I'm sure they mean over time.

So, if you want to look like you know what you're doing, you first look at the wine in your glass and hold it up against the light. You might see a range of colors. Older wines will sort of fade as they approach the rim. Once you've admired the coloring, you swirl it around to release the wine's aromas. Then inhale and see if you can distinguish the key fruit flavors. After doing this many times, I actually started to smell and accurately guess if it was going to have say a cherry flavor. Interestingly, wine never smells like grape.

Finally after comparing with your friends what you think the wine smells like, and everyone having a different idea, go ahead and taste it. This is where it gets complicated. You're supposed to roll the wine around in your mouth so that your tongue can tastes all the various flavors. Your tongue can taste sweetness at the tip and as you move back, saltiness. On the sides you'll have a sensitivity to sourness and acidity. And lastly, bitterness is sensed way in the back. And as you have the wine in your mouth, rolling it around, you should suck in a little air to release more flavors. (Ah, huh, right)

Exhale through your nose and see what scents you can distinguish.

If at this point, you haven't dribbled the wine down your chin and onto your fancy top or drowned, see if you can distinguish it's weight. Light? Medium? Full-bodied? What were the levels of acidity (a bitter taste)? Was it sweet or dry? What fruits can you taste?

Finally, swallow it (or you can spit it out, but I just can bring myself to do this in public - which is why I end up with my head spinning after a couple of wineries). Notice any lingering flavors.

So, did you like it? If you did, you can buy a bottle. Or move on to the next wine.

It's actually a lot of fun. But, I have to be honest, I love wine much better at home with friends, empanadas and a barbeque.

Hugs to all. Now back to my novel.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer Activities

It's officially summer, I think. It's hot everywhere. Yesterday, I took my daughter to the beach, which was nice, but on the way home, at 6:30 at night the temperature was still 101 degrees when I got home.

Actually, I don't mind the heat. I like all the summer activities. Going to the beach, taking my kids to the variety of camps that are available (where were these camps when I was a kid?), and taking family vacations.
Here are few things I've been doing:

Having a baby shower and watching grown women drink water out of baby bottles -LOL
I'm going to be an aunt next month!!!!
Yay, can't wait!!!!!!!!!!

Volunteering at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Great place! I love donating my time to a place that does so much to help the public become aware of the oceans and its inhabitants.

A lot of fun watching enjoy themselves!

Taking kids to play with friends at various amusement parks. I couldn't get on anything that went round and round. Ugh!

How come kids never get sick on these things??

Spent a week in Palm Springs. If you want hot, this is the place to.

These wind mills produce energy for the desert valley. One year my husband and took a tour of the windmills. Most of the information was way more than I wanted to know, but it was interesting. This year we just hung out at the pool. No windmill tours, but you drive by them on the way to Palm Springs and they are very cool to look at.

What has made each of these summer visits and activities so much fun is that I've had the chance to be with family and a friends that I love, and that's the best part.
Then there are the hours re-writing next year's novel. Thank goodness it's coming along well. Going back to a novel you haven't seen in months is always sort of awesome, because it's like reading a new novel, crazy as that sounds. I get into the characters again, and read the book as if someone else had written it. Very happy to almost have this finished!

So what has everyone else been doing this summer?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Interview with Margo Candela

While I was out in Palm Springs baking in 114 degree weather a couple of weeks ago, alternating between a pool and an air conditioned rec. room, I took along an advanced reading copy of Margo Candela's new release GOOD-BY TO ALL THAT, due to be released July 13th, and totally loved it.

Margo's writing style is unique, and I always enjoy reading about her unpredictable characters who are placed in very cool settings that are unfamiliar enough to intrigue me.

So today, I'm happy to share an interview with Margo, but first, a little about the book.

Great Reviews!

"Margo Candela combines a cunning wit with a deep understanding of the office politics specific to the entertainment industry to create a frantic atmosphere and a near breathless momentum as the story barrels toward an ending that's anything but your focus grouped happy fade-out." --Publishers Weekly

“Candela captures the ups and downs of Hollywood in her appealing send-up of the cutthroat side of the industry.” –Booklist

The Story:

Raquel Azorian has worked her way from temp to executive assistant and is this close to a promotion when her boss suffers a very public meltdown that puts not only his future in Hollywood, but also Raquel’s on the line.

It’s not just Raquel’s professional life that’s a mess, her whole family is in turmoil and Raquel is forced to become the intermediary—all while trying to figure out how to save her job and not derail her office romance with the man of her dreams. Unfortunately for her, the clashing of her personal and professional life is making that rung hard to reach for. When the chaos of juggling so many lives reaches a breaking point, Raquel realizes she’s going to have to choose—success at work or happiness at home. Whatever choice she makes, Raquel knows it going to cost her, but part of her is still pulling for her very own Hollywood ending.

The Interview:

JA: Tell me how you would describe Good-bye To All That to those waiting to read it.

Margo: The book came together for me when I conceptualized it as Working Girl meets Mad Men with a dash of Entourage. That movie and those two shows really sum up the world that Raquel, the main character, is living and trying to succeed in. It’s the funny, frustrating and highly fictionalized story of young woman trying to make it at a Disney-esque type of company while trying to keep her family from falling apart.

JA: What made you want to write a Hollywood industry novel?

Margo: I moved back to Los Angeles from San Francisco in 2005 and realized just how different the two cities are. In San Francisco, when I’d tell people I was a writer, they’d ask if I was published or what kind of writing I did. In L.A. everyone automatically assumes I write for film or TV and then they ask why I’m bothering with books. There’s just a different mindset here and a lot of it is influenced by Hollywood. Everyone is supposed to have a fabulous life and washboard abs, but that’s not the case. When I started to think about Good-bye To All That, I knew I wanted to write a novel about a young woman who let her job take over her life and I wanted to explore the non-glamorous side Hollywood.

JA: How much research did it involve, and how much of the craziness reflects real life?

Margo: I did a lot of listening, question asking and observing of friends who have desk jobs in big companies. I didn’t feel like work for me because I have a thing for office life. I find it fascinating and I’m lucky that friends were willing to share their workplace horror stories.

JA: I know you're a screenwriter too. Have you written a screenplay to Good-bye To All That?

Margo: I’ve written three screenplays so far, but Good-bye To All That is too fresh for me to consider tackling. It’s not easy to adapt your own work and most writers advise against it, but for me it was an opportunity to take a look at my books from a different perspective. The script I wrote for Life Over Easy is currently being read by producers and I’m really proud that I got it to a point where it can stand alone as a movie and still have the essence of the novel. I’ve also finished a draft of an original screenplay, but my preference is to write novels.

JA: Wow, that's exciting! Good luck with those. When you do get around to adapting GOOD-BYE TO ALL THAT, and Hollywood snatches it up, who would you like to see play Raquel, Kyle, and the parents in a motion picture?

Margo: Jessica Alba would be perfect for Raquel. She’s smart and sexy, but I could see her dressing down and doing a hardworking Raquel justice. In the book Kyle is a smart and slick very attractive redhead so I’d have to go for Ewan McGregor. I was thinking about his charm and sex appeal when I wrote the Kyle character.

JA: Great choices! I liked Raquel's parents and their conflict. In some ways, they were typical Latino parents, but in many ways they were not. Were they based or inspired by anyone you know?

Margo: Let me state for the record that Marlene, Raquel’s mother, is in no way shape or form based on my mom. Her father is also nothing like my dad. I have no idea what kind of person I would have grown up to be if I had parents like Marlene and Robert. What I tried to do is see her parents as people, not just as Raquel’s mom and dad and give them traits and issues that arose from them being individuals. I will admit that there is a little bit here and there in all my characters of people I’ve met and know, but I’m always very careful not to borrow too much from someone’s real life. Using other people for novel fodder is one sure way to get yourself disinvited from Thanksgiving dinner for the rest of your life. Personally, I like turkey too much to risk making anyone I care about angry at me.

JA: Very good point and an important one to make. I don't know any writer who bases their characters on actualy people, just general traits that are common to people in general. Which brings me to Raquel who wasn't typical, stereotypical, or predictable at all, which was why I liked her so much. I felt bad that none the men in her family, personal life, or at work seemed to be there for her. Reason?

Margo: The book takes place in a time in Raquel’s life when men and romance aren’t on her radar. She’s kind of given up on having a relationship and is instead married to her job. She and her job have the perfect relationship because, for the most part, she’s getting what she wants and sees a bright future on the horizon. When her boss has his breakdown, she realizes she’s truly on her own. She can’t hide behind her job or depend on anyone to do theirs so she can continue to succeed at hers. I like to think that she’ll find the right guy. It just couldn’t happen while she was trying to sort out her work and family life. She had enough on her plate without throwing in the love of her life.

JA: I felt like the story wasn't over for Raquel. Are there plans for a sequel?

Margo: A sequel for Good-bye To All That would be great fun to write. I’d get to delve into a different part Hollywood and of what makes the industry tick. It would also give me an excuse to hang out at parties, raw food cafes and colonic spas for ‘research.’ But for now, I’m content to let Good-bye To All That stand on its own. My next book will also be set in Los Angeles with a whole new cast of characters and their issues.

JA: I look forward to any all your future books, Margo. And if you decide to write a sequel to GOOD-BYE TO ALL THAT, I'll go with you to those parties and raw food cafes, but I'll skip the colonic spas - LOL. Thanks for a great interview!

Bloggers, please leave Margo some questions or comments for an opportunity to win a copy of GOOD-BYE TO ALL THAT. I'll draw a winner from one of the comments on Sunday night.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What I Love and What I Hate

I've been neglecting my blog lately, because summer had shown up and forced me to go on things like girl scout camp, swimming with my kids, vicious ping pong tournaments, and even to watch Disney movies. I'm in full mommy mode. But while sitting in the heat beside the pool, I made a list of things I loved and hated. Mostly it was a silly exercise to keep from being bored to death, but since it was sort of fun, I'll share my list with you.

Ten Things I Love

1. Smell of freshly shampooed hair on my kids (after they get out of the chlorinaded pool)

2. NYC lights viewed out of a hotel window 25+ floors up (thinking of next years RWA conference which will be in NYC and getting excited already)

3. Hot cup of coffee on a Sunday morning a I sit to work on my novel.

4. Scent of very old books

5. Watching World Cup Soccer - and the sexy players

6. A board game on a Friday night with my family

7. Complete silence

8 Puppies, puppies, puppies!

9. A good book I can't put down

10 Clothes sized so that I can buy a smaller size and pretend I've lost weight.

Ten Things I Hate (or really dislike, or find annoying)

1. A $3 softdrink that is mostly ice

2. Computer crashes that happen after I've written something brilliant (both happen rarely)

3. Ridiculous style of dress that's lasted way too long. I'm talking about men's pants below their ass and women wearing those double shirts - one shorter than the other, creating a band around thier stomach. This is not attractive. Come on!

4. Tissue-paper-thin toilet paper at Chipotle. Great burritos, but what's up with the toilet paper?

5. Babies crying at movie theaters. Sorry, but ticket prices are $12-$15 these days - no babies please.

6. Califlower

7. All the cartoon shows for ADULTS. Hasn't our generation grown up yet?

8. Make up - hate that women feel they have to wear so much of it. Also hate that I'm allergic to it and that my eyes look like tomatos when I have to wear it.

9. Driving tickets. All of them. Speeding, parking, seat belts - they're all bogus.

10. Hearing about another Hollywood 20-something actress getting arrested for something stupid she should know better not to do. Tired of Linsay Lohan already.

Friday, June 18, 2010

World Cup Soccer

Gooooaaaaaaalllllll!!! Are you watching the World Cup? I'm catching as many games as I can. Definitely following the Argentine team, the USA for obvious reasons, and South Korea where my kids were born and became interested in their team when I was there in 2001 and watched them prepare to host the 2002 games.
I think I watch mostly, because nothing reminds me more of my dad than the world cup. He was a soccer fanatic. If he could have afforded it, he would have been one of the crazy fans in the audience covered in the Argentine flag with his face painted in blue and white. He loved, loved, loved watching the World Cup. He would go to the Argentine club and watch the games with other Argentines on a big screen and come home talking about how great it had been. He would record the games on VHS tapes - in fact, the reason we bought our first VCR was so that he could record world cup games in 1978 when the World Cup was played in Argentina.

My dad died quiet a few years ago, but when I watch the Argentine players' handsomely intense faces, I remember my dad cheering and shouting and it makes me happy.

Yesterday, Argentina played South Korea at 4am California time. I taped it and my husband and daughter watched it with me (my son only cared about the Lakers so he was in his room listening to the game on the radio - yay Lakers!). I thought it was adorably cute that my daughter was cheering for South Korea. I think my dad would have thought it was cool too. World Cup time seems like a time to cheer for your roots. Even many generation Americans cheer for Germany or England or where ever their ancestors came from.
Besides, it's fun!
Do you have rituals or events or times that you enjoy, because they remind you of someone special or a happy time in your life? I hope so. I think we sort of need these anchors in life that repeat every so often and remind us of who we are and the people we love.
Have a great weekend and Happy Father's Day to all the Father's out there!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Planning a Girl Scout Bridging Ceremony

I'm planning a bridging ceremony for my girl scout troop so today's post will be short. Like all ceremonies, there are more work than they seem. Not only do those involved in the ceremony have to "know their lines" and be prepared. But getting and buying the decorations and props, the food, making sure all recording equipment is working, all batteries charged. Whew!! Lots of work. That said, I love ceremonies. I didn't used to. As a kid, they embarrassed me. Sometimes they seemed boring. But looking back, every ceremony that marked something important, whether it was my first communion, high school graduation, or a sporting event it's there in my memory locked with all the feelings and emotions of that day. They were stepping stones in life that are wonderful to look back at.

I'm excited for my girls and tomorrow is going to be great for them.

Will be back next year with a more writerly post : )


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Update on the reading for the Pacific Review/Ghost Town Literary Magazine for Cal. State San Bernardino:

Tonight: Thursday, June 10th

Place: Tio's Tacos (one of the stranges places I've ever been to - all kinds of "art" made out of recycled materials. Interesting place to visit. 3948 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, Ca. 92501

Readers: Patrick Sommerville, Anna Weatherford, Vicki Barras Tulacros

Time: 6pm

Sadly, I can't be there, but if you enjoy literary events, definitely be there. You can even arrive early and indulge in some tacos and a margarita! And stroll through the grounds and check out all the strange sculptures. There's actually a house made out of bottles there.
Have fun!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Entering a New Literary Universe

Last Saturday, I attended a literary festival called the Saturation Fest and Thursday we had our first reading at Cal. State San Bernardino to celebrate and promote it's lit mag of which I was one of the editors this year. I have to say that this is a whole new world for me coming from the commercial fiction world.

Readings I have personally done or have attended at bookstores are well attended depending on the popularity of the author. Celebrity authors or those with books on the best seller list, usually have a line of people at their signings and readings. Those in attendance are mostly readers, though occasionally, someone from the audience will come up to the author and admit they are writers or have a deeply buried desire to write some day. Mostly, though the focus is the author and the books she or he has produced, and the reason people attend the reading is to either meet the author, or to purchase an autographed copy of the book.

The literary/college reading, because there are a variety of short stories and poems in the magazine, does not focus on one author but on literature itself. The audience that attends has a stake in literature. They love the written word and are there because they are instructors, students, lit majors, or writers. Our reading Thursday night on campus was packed with people. And there was a very cool buzz in the room. The Saturation Fest was bit more bizarre and seemed to attract only a small fringe group.

I started to think about the differences between literary and commercial fiction and reading a bit about it on the net. Lit. fiction always seems to be described at "good" fiction while commercial fiction as less valuable. One site described commerical fiction as "designed to be read quickly, easily, without needing to think too much. It is built on the reader’s reactions to the words and the emotional impact those words illicit. Grammar, structure, and ideals take a back seat to the emotional impact of the stories words." Wow, really?

I think I know what she means -- sort of. Commercial fiction is designed to entertain so there aren't obscure topics that will require the reader to sit back when they are finished reading and ask themselves "what did that really mean?" And as far as grammar, structure, and ideals, I disagree if she means authors don't pay attention to writing conventions . When I first started writing, I took a workshop where the instructor told me to forget all I'd learned in college, and to stop reading literary novels and non-fiction books. That I should not worry about writing perfect sentences. Fragments were okay. And that I should write the way I talk (scary). I took her advice, but soon learned that I actually paid even more attention to structure and grammar. Every sentence fragment, every sentence not written properly was planned and designed that way for impact. So, yes, emotional impact is very important, but so is grammar and structure.

One blogger that I found who offered a good way to look at literary vs commercial was Tamim, a writer from San Francisco. He argues that the difference lies mainly in the experience you are expecting to have and I agree. To me, those that make the judgment calls on lit fiction being superior to popular commercial fiction need to reevaluate what they are basing their opinions on. I've seen great and poor examples on both sides. And I believe there are more points in common than not.

Wednesday, June 10th we're holding our second reading for Cal. State's literary magazine, Pacific Review/Ghost Town at Division 9 Gallery 3850 Lemon St., Riverside, 92501 at 6pm. The venue may change and I'll post an update if it does. Come out and see me and some of the other great readers!


Saturday, May 29, 2010

This week, it seemed like a bunch of TV shows were wrapping up. One of the dancing shows, American Idol, and one of the few I watch - LOST. I started watching LOST because after the first season, a few writers on loop began talking about how wonderful the writing was. Curious, I rented the first season and was hooked instantly.
I questioned why I liked it so much and yes, the writing was fabulous. Not only was there the mystery of where the characters were and the question of how they would survive or be rescued, but there was an interweaving of past, present, and future that complimented each other. For instance, something in the past, revealed not only character, but gave an insight as to why something was currently happening in the island. The writing was complex and treated the viewer as a participant in the show. We were invited to form opinions. The entire plot was not spoon fed to us, and we were treated like intelligent people that could figure things out for ourselves.

My favorite thing about LOST, however was their characterization. The characters were so well developed, and had such a rich, complex histories that they were completely believable. There was a season there when they were battling the others, where they sort of lost me, and I stopped believing that these people that all needed each other would spend so much time trying to kill each other. But for the most part, the characters behaved the way most of us would in their situation. And it was fun to discover new things about them each week.

As a writer, I'm always observing how other writers structure their work, how they build emotion, tension, suspense. How they pace a story to keep interest. I figure I can always learn something new. And I learned a lot from watching LOST. I'll miss it, but will keep an eye what these writers do next.
Happy Memorial Day weekend to you all. And thank you to all of you in the military keeping America safe.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Motivation for Re-Writes

Got my re-writes back on my next novel. Yaayy!! Re-writes are pretty much what they sound like. An editor comments on the manuscript turned in, pointing out where plot, characterization, etc. isn't working. Asks questions about motivation. Suggests changes to make the story better.

So, why am I happy about re-writing when it sounds like they type of work we all hated in English class? Well, first of all, I really, really hate unfinished work. And part of the writing process is getting input form editors to improve the book. Until that happens the book really isn't finished. So this gives me a chance to incorporated all the needed changes and actually finish the book. And secondly, it gives me the opportunity to look at the feed back and see what is working and what isn't working. As I writer, I want to continually improve, so re-writing to make a book better always gives me a charge.

So, now I'll be adding re-writes to my schedule which brings me to what I really wanted to blog about today -- something called self-motivation. I get asked all the time, how I can motivate myself to sit down and write a book - to work creatively when there are so many other things to do: kids, household chores, university work, tutoring work, the list goes on and on. Well, aside from writing because I love it, I think I found the answer in a book by Daniel Pink called DRIVE.

I love everything Daniel Pink writes, but this book was interesting, because as a parent, I also am curious about how to create motivation in my kids. Pink suggest we need three elements to create drive. The first is autonomy. People want to decide how to do a task, when they do it, and if they want to do with someone else (teamwork) or on their own. The second is Mastery. People want to be good at what they do. Mastery requires a lot of hard work, but if someone can master a task, they will wan to do more of it, because if makes them feel successful. And lastly Purpose. If people can see a purpose in what they're doing, they'll want to do more of it.

Althought DRIVE seems to be written more for business people, it's helpful for those of us who want to motivate ourselves to accomplish pretty much anything, from writing a book to losing weight to doing laundry. I know that as long as I can do it my way, feel that I'm successful as I master it, and see the purpose - the reason I'm doing it (vision boards are great for this) then I'll find the drive or motivation to get it done.

Interesting book to pick up. Now, off to work on those re-writes.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Lower Your Blood Pressure, Read More Books

Have you noticed that people are way too touchy these days about everything? A guy walking to a shopping center earlier today stopped beside a car who had pulled a little too far into the crosswalk. He stopped walking and stood over the car of this poor woman and yelled all kinds of profanities, because she was in his way. He could have walked around without making a big issue about it, but he didn't. So, she and the rest of us who were behind her had to wait until he was finished ranting before we could go.

A couple of weeks ago, a guy in my one of my college classes got all bent out of shape because I was chewing a pretzel and he could hear it crunching in my mouth. I now try to sit away from his bionic ears.

My mom joined an aerobics class for seniors and when I asked how she liked it, she said she loved it, but she couldn't believe how rude some of the women in the class were. One woman, rather than welcoming her to the class, informed her that she had taken "her" chair from the stack that sat against a wall. My mom apologized and offered her the chair, and received a dirty look in return as the woman turned away. When she asked the instructor if they had specific chairs assigned, the instructor laughed and said that of course they didn't. They were all the same!

Then, of course, there are all the drivers that are so busy flipping people off that they practically get into accidents in order to let another person know that they are angry.

People seriously need to chill out and read more romances and women's fiction books -- LOL.
No really! There have been studies that reading reduces stress by 68%, even more than music or going for a walk.

It's gotten so bad that when I sat down at a coffee shop a few minutes ago to work on this blog and I went to plug my laptop into a plug that a guy at the table in front of me was using, I had to brace myself for what he'd say. When he, instead, reached across and plugged it in for me, I was shocked that he had been kind.

It's pretty bad when kindness, courtesy, or a nice word is the exception and not the rule. What's wrong with people?

My wish for the day: that everyone let at least one offense slip past without reacting to it. No flipping off or honking at a car that cuts you off (maybe they just didn't see you). No giving dirty looks to a poor mom with screaming kids (she's probably tired and overwhelmed and feeling horrible enough as is). No taking out your frustrations on being over billed on a clerk who isn't in the billing department (coming from a woman who found out her bank made a $300+ error this week - and no I didn't yell at the teller or even the manager, but I did clear up the error and got my money back).

If you're looking for a good book to read, I recommend Kathy Murillo's WAKING UP IN THE LAND OF GLITTER. I'm reading it and enjoying and I know my blood pressure goes down as soon as I open the cover.

Have a great weekend!!


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Today, I spoke to the Apple Valley branch of the California Writer's Club about plotting a novel, or I should say about my difficulty in plotting novels. That's because I have never been a plotter. I'm what they call write-from-the-seat-of-my-pants type of writer. When I write, for example, I have ideas or themes that I want to explore and I base my book on these themes.

With Evenings at the Argentine Club I wanted to write about a woman who had weight issues. So many women feel insecure because they are not the perfect weight (whatever that is) or because they don't project the image that society ingrains in us that we have. I wanted the heroine to deal with the problems that were behind her weight gain and end up at the conclusion of the book with a new appreciation for herself. I wanted to show that perfection either in weight or any part of life, is impossible. Accepting our faults and ourselves with our faults is important, and our heroine (and we) have to accept that and be the best we can be anyway.

I also had another idea for a book floating around my head, and it was to write an immigrant story, based on letters that my father had written to my grandfather when he first immigrated to America from Argentina. I wanted to show the excitement and expectations of success that immigrants have when they first arrive. I wanted to demonstrate through the main character how the American dream of success is an exhausting challenge and does not come easy -- for anyone, but much less an immigrant.

I never expected these two idea to come together into one book, and really, it has turned out to be more of the second story than the first, but one thing that is obvious from looking at these germs of ideas for the book is that they do not make a plot. I have no structure and no scenes. The characters are barely "alive". I needed a plot.

So, what is a plot and why do I say I'm not a plotter? Simply, a plot is what happens in the story, and a plotter is able to create a plan for the story. They systematically write down what will happen first, second, third, and so on until they reach the end of the book. They generally use some type of structure, like the three act structure, or The Hero's Journey to plug the plot into.

Sitting behind my laptop with the three act structure firmly in mind, I found I couldn't write down a punch of made up plots, because I didn't know what was going to happen yet, I hadn't written it.

The way I usually approach writing is that I let my books develop as I write. One scene leads into the next and when I'm finished, the book just needs to be polished or fleshed out.

The problem with this type of story development is that it is impossible to share with an editor or agent what your story is going to look like. "Just wait and see" doesn't seem to work. Also, the novel itself tends to become the plot outline and you end up having to cut and add scenes late in the process that could impact the rest of the book

As I continued to chant that a plot was simply a plan, I realized that plotting a novel wasn't all that different than what I do personally when I goal set. Since I'm a huge believer in setting goals and would never dream of going through life just hoping to reach my ultimate goals, I started to ask myself why I was not wlling to do this when writing a novel. Why couldn't I write a set of plot points that were not set in stone, but that were possible stepping stones to get me to the final climax and resolusion of the story?

Well, the answer is that writing a book is a creative process, not a plan for life, and the way my brain works is that it wants to create, build and discover a story as I write. The creative process is difficult to explain. For me, the plot develops as I see the characters in action. I've also found that trying to stuff characters into a preconcived plot makes them less interesting
What I did with EVENINGS and with upcoming novels is compromise. I plotted possible events that could happen which would lead me to the the end of the book. I then went back and saw how those events might fit into the three act structure. If they fit, I left them alone, if they didn't, I added or deleted or moved certain plot points around. After that, I started writing the book the way I normally would and only looked at my plot points if I felt stuck or as I started my writing day each day. Amazingly, I followed the plot points pretty much the way I'd written them the first time.

I don't think I'll ever be one of these amazing authors who can plot, outline, and see their entire novel before it's written. However, I've been able to become a better plotter and become more organized and more efficient as a writer.

And that's good, right?


Thursday, April 22, 2010

What Can You Do For Our Earth?

Happy Earth Day! Okay, so it's the day after earth day, but that is sort of going to be the point of today's blog. Do we actually need an earth day or shouldn't everyday be a day to make a positive change in our lives that helps our planet?

I've been volunteering a lot at the Aquariam of the Pacific in Long Beach. This is something I decided to do this year, and I'm so glad I did. Volunteer work of any kind really pulls you out of your normal everyday ME syndrome. For a little while, you get to forget about personal problems and issues and do something to help others. But I digress. What I really want to share about the aquariam is that they are an awesome example of an organization that does what they can to be kind to the environment - everyday.

Something I learned from them is that we help our oceans and fish population by eating sustainable fish. What is that? I didn't know when I first heard it. Sustainable fish are fish that are abundant and caught and raised in an environmentally conscious manner. You can view what types of fish are sustainable and delicious reciepe recommendations at the AOP website.

By eating sustainable fish we allow fish population that have been overfished time to recover.

Here is one example of a reciepe you can find on the AOP site:

2 pints of Fresh Dungeness Crab

2 granny smith apples diced fine

2 ripe avocado sliced1 tble fresh chopped parsley

2 tble mayonaisse

1 t fresh lemon juice

1 t Dijon mustard

Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste

Mixed Organic Greens (optional)

Sustainability: The pacific coast Dungeness crab fishery is considered one of the most sustainable crab fishery in the world. Crabs are caught in environmentally friendly traps and are managed by size season and sex. Only male crabs are harvested: females are returned to the sea to reproduce for years to come. Most crab fisheries are dependent on traps that allow for the release of bycatch, undersized crabs, and females. Crab traps are constructed so as to minimize so-called “ghost fishing” when lost (Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been lost by fishermen. These nets are left to drift the oceans of Earth entangling sea life and causing varying degrees of damage throughout Earth’s oceanic ecosystem).

Healthfulness: Crab contains very little fat and provides essential omega 3 fatty acids which are believed to be linked to good heart health.

Flavor and Cooking: The sweet and succulent flavor of Dungeness crab is best simply prepared. The success in this recipe relies on the balance of flavors between the richness of the avocado and the tartness of the apples, the sweet flavor of the crab and a touch of fresh lemon juice to cut accentuate these refined flavors. This salad can be served on a crispy baguette, served over mixed lettuces or eaten alone.

Combine all the ingredients and serve immediately.

Hope you try it and enjoy!


Friday, April 16, 2010

My Love of Books

I've been reading A LOT. Books for research. Books as part of my MFA program. Books that I had to judge for the RWA RITA. Books that students I tutor read so I can tell if they're summarizing correctly. Books scheduled for my book club. Books I like and want to read for fun. And I've loved (am loving) every minute of it.

Reading is one of my very favorite activities. I'd rather read than eat, and I really love to eat. And this has always been the case with me. Even as a child my mother would complain, because I was sitting around "doing nothing". Which kind of makes me wonder where I got this love of books. My father was a reader, but mostly newspapers. My house growing up was not rich with reading material. The only books I had were those I'd borrow from the library. I never owned a book until I was a teenager and old enough to buy my own book - usually at a library sale.

With my children, I made a point to expose them to books. Every room in my house has bookcases. They have their own personal library in their bedrooms. And thankfully, they are readers. As a teacher, I found that some kids I had to cajole into reading while others loved it on their own. But once "forced" most seemed to get into the books they'd chosen to read.

But, I wonder if we're either born readers and loving books or if it's something we learn . . .

Since it's been a while since I've had a give-away, I'd like to give a book lover out there some books to read. Leave a comment below, sharing what you love about books, and I'll choose someone at the end of the weekend to receive Elizabeth Hoyt's Prince collection: The Raven Prince, The Serpent Prince, and The Leopard Prince. In your comments, leave me an email where I can contact you and let you know if you're the winner.

Good Luck!


Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring Break or Spring Work?

Remember the days when spring break meant hanging at the beach with friends or traveling to placed like South Padre Island or Miami or Las Vegas and partying from the day you arrive until you board the plane hung over? Well, me neither. It was never exactly like that for me. First of all I don't get that drunk, ever. I'm too much of a control freak and would hate not to remember the stupid things I'd done while drunk.

BUT, I do remember spring breaks when I was going to college, back when my husband and I were newlywed and we were free to go to places like Vegas or Palm Springs and have a great time just being together. We stayed in the spa until midnight then slept in all morning. We enjoyed fancy dinners and great shows. And we didn't even think of work or any of our obligations wating for us back home

But as this week of spring break ends, I'm exhausted. I decided to continue my spring cleaning since the kids weren't bogged down with school work. We cleared out a lot of the old dead plants and planted new. We weeded out more clothes they've out grown. I've (sadly) pulled books that I've already read or decided I will never read and put them in boxes to donate. So as we approach the weekend, I'm exhausted! And I didn't even get everything I wanted to get done done. I wanted to paint my family room, but that will have to wait another weekend or two.

Even though I'm pretty worn out, I really don't miss those spring breaks of my youth all that much. It's kind of nice to get to home projects that always get pushed aside. But now that it's Friday night, I've put away my gardening gloves and shoved all my junk into the garage. I'm going to take a hot shower and put all work aside for the weekend, which I plan to spend with friends.

What about you all? What did you do for spring break?


Friday, March 26, 2010

I Ran Out Of Gas Will You . . . ?

The other day I stopped to get gas. It was about 9:00 at night. And while I’m standing beside my van sort of spacing out and wondering if I want to drive a couple of miles for a cup of tea and a scone for my drive home, this guy walks up to me. He’s got long hair brushed back into a pony tail and dressed in a nice long sleeve, button up blue shirt and jeans.

I’m not sure what I thought he was going to ask me or tell me, but it wasn’t what actually happened. He holds up a CD and tells me he’s a musician, and that he’s run out of gas and if I buy his CD he’ll have money to get home.

I think I stared at him too long while I tried to process this. I’ve had many people use that “I ran out gas” line and honestly, I never believe it, but sometimes I’ll offer a dollar or some change. Never when I’m with my kids, because I’m always paranoid of the many scenarios that can happen, but when it’s just me and I feel safe, I’ll help them out.

But not only did I not believe this guy with the CD, but I wondered if he was a real musician. If he was, was he really trying to sell his music at a gas station with an “I ran out of gas” line? I wondered if as an author I would do that. Well, no I didn’t wonder – I knew I wouldn’t. But I have attended many book shows, conventions, seminars, Etc. where I sit behind my booth and talk to attendees about my books in hopes that they will buy a copy. My role at these booths is no longer that of an artist, but a sales person, which is unfortunate. Like all other booths that are selling hats or clothes or jewelry or a hot dog and a coke, I have a product to sell.

I’ve always understood that the book business IS a business, and I actually have fun attending these events, but I often think that it’s too bad that an artist, whether writer, painter, or musician, has to be involved in this part of the business. I don’t think most of us are very good at it.

I left the gas station. I did not buy his CD, though I thought about him a few times this week and wondered if there was really music on that CD, and sort of wished I had. I didn’t buy it, because it was sort of creepy for him to approach someone at a gas station at night. No matter how difficult it is to sell our art, I still think we need to treat it like art. We might be forced to become sales people at times, but I think we have to respect our work enough NOT to sell it anywhere.


Friday, March 19, 2010

I Actually Made The Right Choice!

Yesterday, I had the best time on a field trip with my kids!! One of the boys in my son's class lives in a rural area and invited the class to visit his home. Not only does he have the usual farm animals, but as soon as you walk out of his property you're basically out in the wild. So, we went on a gorgeous hike, through trails and across rocks and through creeks. The kids loved being in this outdoor school. The fantastic teacher, who was there on her day off, pointed out plants that were edible (because they read a book about a boy who survives in the wilderness eating what he finds) and tossed in lessons about nature here and there. And the parents, got a chance to chat and enjoy the day outside with the kids.

When my kids were school age, I struggled with the decision about what I would do regarding their schooling. I studied all the schooling options (and we're so lucky to have so many in America), and decided home schooling was the best option for my family.

But early in my home schooling, I found a charter school that I liked and teamed up with them, because they offered some cool things for the kids. I continued to teach my kids at home, but they went to a charter school learning center for fun workshops. This year the charter school offered a school option where they go to "school" three days a week and are schooled at home two days. I decided to try it out and on days like yesterday, I'm so glad I did! I LOVE the feel of community that exists between the parents and the teachers. I LOVE the long-term friendships my kids have made with other great kids who all have parents that are deeply involved in their kids' education. And I love the real life learning that goes on so much of the time.

It's great when you can feel you're making the right choice for your kids!
Now, if only I could go back out there today with my laptop. What an inspiring place to work! But, today, I'm stuck in my office. If you are too, I hope you can get out over the weekend and enjoy a bit of nature too.
Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Dreaded Gardening Project

This is my lovely back yard slope. With all the wonderful Calfornia rains, the weeds have enjoyed growing and completely taking over my slope.

The last few weekends, I've told myself I'm going to get out there and take care of it. Weed-wack them away. Pull them out. Get my vegetable garden finally in there (my husband has never let me plant pretty ground cover because he's going to use the slope for a veggie garden - yeah, right -- finally this year I decided I was going to put it in myself). But every weekend lately, it's been pouring rain.
Finally this weekend, it looks like we're going to have a nice sunny Saturday and Sunday, but I'll be cheering for my kids at a swim meet one day and entertaining family the next. The weeds will get to live another week.
At least the weeds are still green and not quite long enough to alert the weed-abatement people. And it doesn't look THAT bad. Well, okay, it does, but I'll get to it. If I can make it sound like fun, I might even convince my kids to get out there and help me. And once I start actually working on the vegetable garden, my husband will charge outside and tell me I'm doing all wrong and he'll take over.
I feel better about this job already!
Anyone else have a spring gardening project you're dragging your feet on?

Happy weekend!


Friday, March 5, 2010

Tell Me About Your Friends

“Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.” Tennessee Williams (Playwrite)

Do you get to choose your parents? Of course not. Do you choose your husband? Well, let's just say it was probably your hormones that chose him, and years later you may be wondering, "What was I thinking!?" How about your children? Nope, sorry, God sends you what you deserve - it's called pay back time.

But friends! Here, we get to choose. So is it any wonder that these relationships can be some of the most rewarding of all?

With your friends, you can share things that you wouldn't dream of sharing with your parents, spouse, or children.

I think there is a reason "relationship" books and movies are so popular. We need them, they feed our soul. Sex in the City didn't make it as huge as is it did, because of the sex part of that title -- well, maybe a little. It was the relationship between the women that really made the show what it was. Through fights, boyfriends, babies -- they were there for each other. No topic was off limit as they sat in their favorite coffee shop every morning. And we loved to listen in to their wacky conversations.

Not long ago, I realized, something was missing from my life. Once I became a mother, I had little time for anything else in my life, and that sadly included time to spend with friends. My days were devoted to my kids. My nights to my novels. What ever time I had left went to my family and husband. Pretty close to perfect, I thought, so I couldn't understand why I felt I needed more. Couldn't even pinpoint what that more could be. Until I just happened to attend a woman's group one day as a way to meet Latina women and introduce them to my books. This group was so wonderfully alive and eclectic that I wanted to see them again and again. Then it hit me that I rarely made time to see my friends anymore, and it was them I was missing.

Today, I still cringe when someone suggests doing something on a weeknight, because it's when I work. But, occasionally, I'll put everything aside to spend time with friends, and I'm always glad I did. I also devote Friday nights to seeing friends, going to book clubs, and basically spending time with women who mean something special to me.

I don't know if it's like this for you, but every group of friends brings something different and important into your life. My writing friends understand why I'd want to spend hours alone creating characters that only exist in my mind. My friends who home school don't think I'm insane to give up my career, my money, and all my free time to educate my own kids. Friends from my childhood share a part of my past that we return to when we get together. And so on.

So, this blog is a huge thank you to all my friends. I wouldn't be who I am without you! I cherish what you all bring to my life and hope I somehow bring something to yours.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one” C.S. Lewis (novelist)

Enjoy your weekend AND your friends!