October 30, 2007

How is Crazy Farm Plan Like The Red Queen’s Jam? PART TWO

SO I was writing the end of the trunk or treat story when I noticed a mysterious silence emanating from the rest of the house. Very Silent. Very Mysterious. When a house with a big dog in it goes spooky quiet, it means that SLY EVIL is being perpetrated. I went to investigate.

NOW! BEFORE I let the dog back in after his morning constitutional, I made sure the kids’ bedroom doors were closed. And I babygated OUR bedroom door. SO! EITHER the dog grew a thumb and learned to turn knobs (in which case I am going to have to take him to the vet for a thumb-ectomy because, NO) OR I didn’t check well enough or the dog learned to say Open Sesame…However it happened, I could see from the downstairs hall that the door to my son’s room was hanging WIIIIIIDE open. I began running up the stairs, three at a time, because I KNOW my son, and it was a good bet that he had left his MASSIVE Trunk or Treat Loot Bag of candies in the MIDDLE OF HIS FLOOR.

The merciful part: Not any chocolate. He had like 6 chocolate things and those got et first by Sam and Maisy and MAYBE their mother might have purloined a Reese’s cup or two. So. I am not worried about CHOCO-POISON.

The unmerciful part: My son’s room is AWASH in CHEWED OPEN packs of Starburst and Laffy Taffy and SweetTarts and Twizzlers. I saw Gum and Taffy ground into the carpet. I saw hundreds of teeny wrapper shreds and powdered Smarties sprinkled like snow across the room. Licked Skittles abound. The dog sat smug in the middle of the carnage, working his jaws around something, and when he saw me, his eyes half bugged out of his head, and he tried to do a fast, low-belly slink run past me and out the door.

I basically had to WRASSLE the dog to the ground, PRY open his mouth at the hinges and manually remove the ATOMIC FIREBALL (Yes. Really.) he’d been macerating, and then pick a large sliver of the cellophane WRAPPER out from between his back teeth. I have NO doubt the REST of the wrapper is in his stomach with 50 other wrappers and about a POUND of food coloring and pure cane sugar.

I threw him back in the yard to be sick and closed Sam’s door again. I am pretending it did not happen for ten more minutes while I have a calming mini-Snickers bar and think about what cleaning product can best remove the perfect little circles of red, green and orange DYE that the licked Skittles have released onto the pale carpet…

ANYWAY, to FINISH UP so I can go fix the ROOM *sigh*

I got VERY competitive about the Trunk or Treat, and my first idea was to make the BACK OF THE VAN a Magicians Studio with all sorts of MAGICAL PARAPHENALIA including ALIVE RABBITS and my husband (who knows quite a LOT of close magic) could dress up in a SORCERER outfit and do a BIG SHOW with feathers and pulling lights out of kids ears and he could JUGGLE in between tricks! (He can JUGGLE!) AND WE WOULD WIN!!!

Scott was like, WHOA! Sugar, DIAL IT BACK DOWN. He got a very philosophical sort of WISE face and gave me this PIOUS lecture about the TRUE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS or whatever, which is, apparently, NOT about winning. He made that very clear. I am not sure what it IS about, something about peace or kindness blah blah blah. AND!!! I SUSPECT that whole TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS SPEECH actually translated would read something like “If you think you are going to have me standing in a parking lot in a pointy hat with stars on it for two hours pulling scarves out of my pants, then you need to spend now until Christmas in rehab to GET OFF THE CRACK.”

SO then he came up with the idea that we would cover the trunk in red fabric, hang some cardboard teeth and make it lok like a mouth, and then kids could just REACH into the mouth and get some candy.


SO then *I* got very pious and gave him a lecture about the fleeting nature of Childhood, how this would be the ONLY Halloween when Sam was ten and Maisy was five, that as soon as NEXT YEAR Sam’s interest in these things would oh so sadly wane, and that this was a FAMILY PROJECT and this trunk was a SPECIAL BUCKET of family togetherness time and we should not squander the opportunity to create PRECIOUS MEMORIES to sustain us in our dotage.

Translated, my pious speech would read: Dude, that mouth idea is SO NOT going to WIN.

We finally settled on building an enchanted forrest in the back of the van with TWINKLE LIGHTS and REAL TREES and LEAF AND FEATHER AND FLOWER GARLANDS and SPARKLE BERRIES and GLITTERED PINE CONES and we populated it with pretty Victorian glass Fairies and a dragon and a gargoyle, and then we took this THICK cardboard-y paper stuff and I drew three hobgoblins named Red Tooth (he had red teeth) Boogerhead (his head was shaped like a booger) and Dorcas (because Maisy wanted a girl hobgoblin…). We painted them and cut them out and built stands on the back. We told kids that Hobgoblins invaded the enchanted forest. We got a NERF crossbow and let the kids SHOOT the hobgoblins. They got candy just for trying, but knocking a goblin over meant DOUBLE candy.

IT WAS SO FUN!!!! And it created MEMORIES for US and for our precious loin-spawns. And shooting hobgoblins to save fairies IS, I think, possibly a METAPHOR for the True Meaning of Christmas. SO! ALL GOOD GOALS WERE ACCOMPLISHED. And…NOT that this is AT ALL IMPORTANT IN ANY WAY….we won A PRIZE!!!!! The People’s Choice Award. *prim smile* I mention the WINNING only in passing you understand.

Here is a pic with little CLOSE UP BOXES of the fairies and Red Tooth and Boogerhead, but you can’t really SEE all the twinkle lights or the backdrop with hand drawn stars and how DEEP into the van the forest goes…..It was the best pic we got.


Maisy was one of the fairies and Sam re-invented his DEMENTOR (from Harry Potter) costume and took on the role of Hobgoblin.


Good times!

Posted by joshilyn at 10:25 AM | Comments (23)

October 29, 2007

How is Crazy Farm Plan Like The Red Queen’s Jam? PART ONE

And with that not-so-enigmatic title, I skip Crazy Farm Plan in lieu of Trunk or Treat.

I used to love my town. Because when we moved here, it WAS a town. We would go to the fourth of July fireworks celebration on the square, and every fifth person I saw would be from my church or a fellow mom from Sam’s soccer team or the check out lady I like best at Publix. NOW we go and I see maybe twenty people I know all night.

It’s not that I know less people, it’s that they are tearing out my woods and putting in 300 – 600K McMansions on postage stamp lots with more development signs going up each week and more WalMarts opening, more malls and gas stations and an Applebees on every other corner so we can all eat good in the neighborhood and MANY MANY MORE PEOPLE HAVE COME and spread the town until it touches all the other towns all the way back to ATLANTA in a long town-chain and traffic backs up down the once-empty highways and byways and now that we are boundary-less and suburban we are being zoned differently so NO ONE CAN RAISE GOATS OR KEEP BEES IN THEIR BACKYARD. WHICH IS JUST WRONG!

As a result, the fireworks event has become huge and swarming with commuters and the number of YMITDS (Young Mothers In Truly Disturbing Shorts, pronounced “YIM-ee-tids”) has multiplied a thousandfold.

DIGRESSION: Dear twenty-something young ladies with new babies in strollers. When you were seventeen, your mother would not let you wear those shorts. Once you snuck them out in your backpack and changed into them at the mall bathroom, and OF COURSE that old busybody neighbor with the plasticene church lady hair and the pinched lips that told the world her rear-stick has been staunchly and permanently inserted SAW your then-dewy buttcheeks as you bent over the puppy bucket at MALL PET WORLD and she called your mother and she REPORTED you and you missed Homecoming. I feel for you about that. I experienced similar incident involving a VERY mini miniskirt and some boots with built in legwarmers (Shut. Up. Flashdance made them cool.)

Now you are twenty-two and all grown up with your own husband and your own baby and your own little place where you can hang up the exact kind of curtains you like best, and no one can ground you and no one is the boss of you and you are a completely autonomous being capable of making her own decisions…BUT. (Here I exercise SUPERHUMAN self-control and forgo the built in pun the extra T would give me because my point here is very very very sincere.) BUT, I say to you, BUT. Just because you CAN now wear those shorts, it does not mean you SHOULD. Especially not now, six weeks after childbirth. And NEVER with five inch heeled metallic strappy sandals. And NEVER NEVER NEVER to an event that involves marching around in fields to eat funnel cakes and see fireworks so that your heels are constantly sinking into the dirt and you have to walk tippy-toe like a mincing pigeon. Really really really not. Really not. Really. /digression

BACK ON POINT: I like small town living. I like goats. I want bees in my yard. I don’t like Applebees and I DESPISE rush hour traffic with a burning red hot vitality that propels my blood through my veins all willy nilly, til each red cell is as giddy as a flaming schoolgirl, each in love with the loathing of traffic.

All these things mean I SHOULD MOVE.

BUT you know, we love our friends our house our church our kids school and the little kernel of TOWN at the center with the square and the tea house and the independent bookstore and the little brick walkways – things other little town lovers are fighting to preserve --- Oh how I love these things. And so we stay another year. And then another.

ANYWAY, one thing I ESPECIALLY love about my church is that every year, around Halloween, we do TRUNK OR TREAT. That’s where parishioners sign up their cars, and then park backwards in the church lot, and we all DECORATE our trunks with some sort of theme and put a CARNIVAL STYLE GAME in the trunk or near it, and all the little kids get in costume and toddle from car to car and try to toss rings around inflatable ghosts or knock over witches with pumpkin-shaped beanbags, or throw a fishing line up and into the sun-roof of an SUV where some over-heated father is jammed up in the backseat, attaching Ring Pops to the line and tugging on it like a trout and saying the foulest cusses he can think of non-stop under his breath as he swelters and VOWS TO HEAVEN that next year they are doing a blanketty blank blanking duck pond.

This year, it was announced that THE MAYOR OF POWDER SPRINGS was COMING! To OUR little TRUNK OR TREAT. And she would JUDGE the trunks and there would be PRIZES and GLORY and THE ETERNAL ADORATION OF THE MASSES at stake…Not JUST trunk or treat. A trunk or treat CONTEST.

Oh, Beloveds, you may have realized by now that I have a teeny tiny little hardly noticeable competitive streak running all through me like the fudge ribbon in ripple ice cream. Heh. SO of course I began WEEKS ago planning OUR TRUNK, determined that we would SMITE ALL OTHER TRUNKERS with mighty-smighties and the vigorous vim of our lavish Broadway production of a trunk which would feature ANIMATRONICS and FLAMING HOOPS and MUSICAL MONKEY DANCERS and CGI DRAGONS and a guest appearance by MOS DEF!


I digressed and yelled about YMITDS, so I am out of time… I MUST RUN OUT THE DOOR IN FIVE MINUYES and I need a shower… Parts 2 3 and perhaps even 4 the rest of the week with a break to do 3 Questions somewhere in the middle. AND THEN Crazy Farm Plan!

Posted by joshilyn at 9:20 AM | Comments (21)

October 25, 2007

Of All the Things I Mean to Blog About…

Crazy Farm Plan is my favorite. But I never blog it. There Crazy Farm Plan sits, three words that evoke, for me, a beautiful and moderately cow-infested whole world vision, sitting RIGHT AT THE TOP of the screen when I open the word doc named “tellthebeloveds.” And yet I never tell you.

Crazy Farm Plan is my private Pink Socks story, the one that cannot escape the BLOG THIS file even though I MEAN to give CFP a boost over the fence or bake a shovel in a Bundt cake to take on Visit That File Day. Onee day all the relevant links will go dark, and here we will sit, uncrazy and unfarmplanned, me longing for what might have been and you happy and oblivious that things COULD have been different. SO different. With GOATS, even.

In an effort to SAVE Crazy Farm Plan, allow me to say:

I had a farm plan.
It. Was. Crazy.
I AM going to tell you about it.

Now it is your pink sock story, too, and if it never fru-itts to fruition, my head alone will not carry all the weight of that shame.

TODAY however, before it escapes way down the page and I forget…Remember three entries ago we looked at the US cover and the UK cover and they were WILDLY different but, Beloveds, I told you I thought that both are absolutely correct for the book? WELL!


In TGWSS, there are three main characters.

Laurel Gray Hawthorne, my conventional, large-souled, genuinely lovely and like-able wife-and-mother whose rich inner life seeps out of her seemingly seamless façade to infest her art quilts.
David, her husband, a pale and wild-eyed basement-dwelling sort who thinks in ones and zeros.
Thalia Gray, her sister, an actor who lives like Laurel quilts. She is rule-less and sharp and witty and sly.

The UK cover (scroll down 3 entries to see it) is THALIA GRAY’s cover. Absolutely. That’s Thalia’s inner landscape in perfect focus. That font? IS THALIA’S FREAKIN HANDWRITING! If the girl on the cover is a ghost, than she is Thalia’s ghost, suspended over an abyss where hope is only spray of fairy lights and guttering votive candles, but she’s wearing a hot pink mini-dress ANYWAY.

The US cover ghost is Laurel’s. (Some of you said the girl on the U.S. the cover looks unambiguously ALIVE, but I think that’s because it’s a small jpg on a screen. In person, on paper, on a BOOK, that girl is incandescent and unearthly. Maybe more angel than ghost, but definitely not bending the grass when she walks among us.) The colors and worldview are Laurel’s. See how the words in the title deepen and darken and distort as they go LOWER on the page? So the top word, the “THE”, the thing you see first, is clear aqua, but under that…That progression of colors is how Laurel would look if she did wonder-twin powers with her sister and said, FORM OF…. A METAPHOR.

Here’s the thing I wonder that we won’t know for MONTHS: Is the cover you like better a good indicator of what sister you identify with more strongly? I hope I remember to ask when the book is out. I ALSO would really like to see a cover that makes me say “Oh! There’s DAVID’S cover….” I can’t even IMAGINE what such a cover would look like, but maybe, say, Germany, will know?

ALSO, my friend Dana and Cornelia Read BOTH sent me this CARTOON, and it is appropriate for today because this morning as I was trying to grab five more minutes of sleep while Horrible Kitten assiduously BURROWED at my face trying to find an something to nurse on since I had protectively covered up my earlobes…

I Digress to bring you the Inner Dialogue of Horrible Kitten: “Is earlobe up this nostril??? NO?? NO EARLOBE IN NOSTRIL? Hmm. No. AHA! I think earlobe must be under this EYELID, YES???? NO? NO! WHERE IS MY SECRET NURSE PLACE???? I KNOW IT IS HERE ON YOUR FACE AND IF I JUST TOUCH YOU WITH MY WHISKERS ENOUGH IT WILL REVEAL ITSELF! *TOUCH! TOUCH! TOUCH!* ….Hey! Look! I can FLY!”

…anyway this morning during all THAT I realized I have to go BACK to chapter one again in the new book because I started in the wrong place. GAhhhhhh. So, in honor of THAT, I bring this from Savage Chickens…


Man, but I hate that freakin’ pencil.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:52 AM | Comments (17)

October 22, 2007

Guest Blogging Again

Beloveds, today you can find me on my group blog, A GOOD BLOG IS HARD TO FIND. I'm blogging there every six weeks or so, but I will give you a heads up here when it is field trip day for Kudzu. AGBIHTF is a consortium of southern authors, a lot of whom I have read and whose work I really like, including, just to name a few off the top of my head, Cassandra King, Silas House, Mindy Friddle, Julianna Baggott, Patti Callahan Henry, and River Jordan (I’ve actually known River for about 20 years – we went to college together.) Lots more -- prolly some of your faves, too...

My blog entry for today is archived here.

Posted by joshilyn at 9:15 AM | Comments (4)

October 20, 2007


I hate to blog today because I wanted to leave the COVER on top for another day or two because I am SO digging reading the comments AND I want to respond to them, but a MOMENTOUS EVENT occurred, and I had to tell you. SO after this scroll down and look, okay, if you were not here yesterday. BUT NOW!!! Drumroll please!


This is a big deal, as you may remember.

It was INSANE! I did SUCH a bad job (as per usual) that I SHOULD NOT HAVE WON. I was handed these PERFECT hands, triples and full houses and flushes and 2 pairs, and I would BOGGLE at them, and giggle, and bet madly, and the people at the table would say, “OH COME ON! She HAS to be bluffing THIS TIME!” And I NEVER WAS. I don’t think I even know how. It was all luck, zero skill, but you know what???? I WILL TAKE IT!!! YAR YAR YAR!!!!!

I cannot do a victory dance because I have co-ordination of a dead drunk sloth in a wind machine. BUT. If you turn your speakers up and clicky clicky on the following link, you will see and hear the perfect physical expression of how I feel INSIDE.

Posted by joshilyn at 6:44 PM | Comments (10)

October 19, 2007

TGI...F? or S? Or?

FIRST! I have been DYING to show you this but it JUST got finalized and I JUST this second woke up with an email granting me permission to post it!!!! It is the UK cover of THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING. I… freaking….love…it. Love the font, love how SUSPENDED the girl looks, love the tea candles, love the fairy lights, love how my name is electric, lovelovelovelove.


DIGRESSION: I love how they used Sara Gruen’s quote on the front, too…I have this thing about blurbs…when I REALLY like a writer’s work, I LOVE seeing my blurb on their jacket. It makes me feel like I was in on a trend before it started or something. And conversely, I love seeing their name on my book. Makes me feel all legit and whatnot.

Here’s the weird: That UK version is one of those covers that evokes a theme and a mood that are vital to the story, and evokes them PERFECTLY, and yet…I feel the same about my US cover, and could they BE any different? (<---emphasis ala Chandler Bing) But still, the US cover (Which you can see HERE!) captures something about the book and makes it an image in a way that feels exactly right. I can look at BOTH those covers and I feel VERY different sets of emotions, but I felt both sets strongly in different places when writing that book. If I had to choose one or the other, I couldn’t. They are both big internal GLORY GLORY YES YES YES covers for me.

As Maisy would say, “That’s FWEAKY!”

I’d love to hear what you think. Which one looks more like a book you would pick up in a store? Why? Or, looking at them, what MOOD or feeling do you get? Do you see how they could be the same book? Are there any parallels you see? CORNELIA scammed an ADVANCE reader copy (she and I share a publisher so we often get our mitts on the other’s books early) so it will be interesting if she chimes in…

HAPPY FRIDAY! I keep thinking it is Saturday because my kids are out of school for a national holiday called Teacher Planning. It is, I think, a day where teachers plan the second nine weeks, but that makes me sad. I used to be a teacher, and I think they ought to get a day to hole up with each other in karaoke bars and play cards and drink frozen belinnis until they feel silly and the only thing they should plan is how to de-stress enough in the next 24 hours to refrain from going all feral troll and lurking under bridges to snatch and gobble down their most horrifying and extra-sticky students. Good teachers are super-heroes, and THIS YEAR my kids have been blessed with two of the very very best ever. I am so happy with their teachers this year that I feel they deserve TEACHER PLANNING CRUISES.

But I digress. My point was…It is FRIDAY. I’ve been up since about three or so, going for Oscar in the role of “DROOLING INSOMNIAC FOOL,” and yesterday my kids wore REGULAR clothes instead of uniforms, and so it MUST have been FRIDAY. And so today must be Saturday, and twice now I have looked at my Calendar and clocked THIS:

Saturday, October 20th - Lawrenceville, GA
Gwinnett County Public Library Reading Festival - 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
1001 Lawrenceville Highway
Lawrenceville, GA 30045

SO then I think I need to be in Gwinette, and I have twice gone upstairs to pick out clothes based on GOING TO A FESTIVAL TO SPEAK IN FRONT OF PEOPLE, and then thought, oh but wait, is it Saturday? No, it is FRIDAY, and I need HOLING UP WITH MY WRITING GROUP clothes which feature lower shoes and a less binding waist, and then I get distracted and wander off still in my pajamas, and later I look at my calendar and go upstairs to pick out festival clothes.

I blame Mr. Husband.

See, every night, before we go to bed, he preps the coffee machine, so if insomnia wins and I go downstairs to WORK, I can be awake enough to actually get some writing done instead of staring my monitor with a slack jaw. HE DID NOT! HE FORGOT! So I had to make my own coffee, which always comes out like undrinkable tar or a pale amber fluid that looks like water a tea bag kissed lightly on the lips in passing. This was an undrinkable tar morning, and I only managed to gag down half a cup and so, you see, I was running on a single underfueled lurching cylinder.

A few minutes before I started blogging, Scott came downstairs and looked at me hunched miserably still in PJs and he realized he forgot to pre-set coffee and he said, “I sense a great disturbance in the force!’ and I said YODA! MAKE COFFEE YOU MUST! so now I am perkier ( DOH! Unintended pun!) and can maybe even go put APPROPRIATE CLOTHES on my coffee-nated and happy hide. SO I think I will.

Yo, local beloveds, come to the fest in Gwinette tomorrow! I will be there too, assuming I can remember what day it is.

Posted by joshilyn at 5:41 AM | Comments (37)

October 16, 2007

3 Questions with the fabulous Renee Rosen

I really really really like just about everything about Renee Rosen. She’s smart, funny, pretty, and has quite a way with words, to boot. I picked up her debut novel, Every Crooked Pot to read at the beach last summer---she’s quite a talent! I recently had the extreme pleasure of getting to hang out with Renee, and I discovered she was every bit as colorful and entertaining as her characters.

In a starred review, BOOKLIST says, “In a debut novel that could easily have been published as an adult memoir, Rosen looks back at the life of Nina Goldman, whose growing up is tied to two pillars: a port-wine stain around her eye and her inimitable father, Artie. The birthmark, she hates; her father, she loves. Both shape her in ways that merit Rosen’s minute investigation, which begins with an incident both funny and shocking….


JJ: Your main character seems to have a lot in common with you. I mean…a LOT! Even booklist says this could have easily been a memoir, is that true? *raises an eyebrow.* So, why is this a novel? How is your main character’s story different from your own?

RR: Since Every Crooked Pot is semi-autobiographical, Nina and I are similar in some very obvious ways. For example, we were both born with a disfiguring strawberry birthmark over our right eye. We both grew up in Akron, Ohio. We both had larger-than-life fathers and mothers who smoked pipes. Like Nina, (and like everyone else I know) I had my share of heartaches with boys and my share of teenage angst. And that's where the similarities ended. Nina's condition was much more severe than mine ever was and she dealt with her birthmark and her family--especially her father--in ways that were very different from my own experience. And while some people think they've read my diary after reading my novel, I'm going on record here and to say that I still have plenty of secrets.

JJ: Can you talk a little about the significance of your title and how you came up with it?

RR: The title references an old Yiddish expression that 'Every crooked pot has a crooked cover.' In other words, there's someone for everyone and that we love people not just in spite of their flaws but because of them. This title was a gift from a dear friend of mine. Her mother used to tell her that expression and I just loved it.

JJ: Who did you dedicate this book to and why?

RR: I dedicated the book to my family and the memory of my father. Though the Rosen clan is very different from the Goldmans, I grew up in a household full of love and laughter (and sometimes tears). My father was an amazing man who provided me with a lifetime of material. The most lovable aspects of Artie can be traced back to him. Every writer should be as lucky as I've been to have such a supportive family and this book was a way to preserve some of those memories we shared growing up "Rosen-style."

Posted by joshilyn at 9:49 PM | Comments (3)

October 15, 2007

MEANWHILE! Back at the Ranch

No, Best Beloveds, I did not see Poe’s grave. I was there for literally LESS than 24 hours. I saw an airport. Oh! I saw a handbag store at the airport. And I thought to myself, Really? A handbag store? It was down in the terminal, not at the hub, and there was nothing else there but The Big Belly Sammich Shop and a store that sold paperback bestsellers and newspapers and chips. Very random to have a handbag store.

Then once I left the airport I saw some architecture, from the outside. From the inside, all I saw was a Sheraton and a Dunkin Domuts where I purchased coffee. It’s important to note that the milk came FREE with the coffee at DD, but even so, I did not purchase the Dunkable thingies that PURPORT to be donuts. The only object that deserves the lofty title of DONUT comes from Krispy Kreme when the HOT DONUTS NOW sign is blinking. CAN I GET AN AMEN.

I know it seems like I basically went to Baltimore, ate a crab cake, and got rooked on a milk purchase, but more than that happened. BEFORE I got rooked on the milk purchase (but after the crab cake), I DID get to meet Laura Lippman.

I was repulsively fangrrrrly about it, because I think she is an AWESOME writer. If you have not tasted the pleasures of a Laura Lippman book,
Why not start here with this stand alone. I just reread it on the plane home (I got it on CD right when it came out) and think I liked it even better the second time. Knowing the end was an odd pleasure, because I see how perfectly everything dovetailed.

CRAFT NOTE (if you aren’t a writer, just skip this): She is fantastic at shifting close third person POV; Her writing gives each character the illusion of a first person voice, as they all have their own slang and sentence structure. One character (Heather) was so well done that I remembered her sections as being done in first, but NO! It was all in third. If you want to see perfect close third person, read Laura Lippman. That is all.

Also? She blogs here.

While I was eating the crab cake and getting rooked on the milk deal, things at home were developing….LOOK what a CERTAIN YELLOW SOMEONE is doing. That;s quite an INTENSE look, wouldn’t you say. It looks to me as if the yellow someone has decided he really wants to BEFRIEND other, much smaller, and possibly somewhat TASTY someones. And here, you understand, I use the word “ befriend” to mean, “decapitate, dismember, and defenestrate, then scatter the chunks to the four corners of the living room.”


That is just a MESH SCREEN his little yellow butt is resting on. Scott snapped this fast pic and since then we have been keeping a careful eye on Lady Land and pulling him DOWN off it and saying NO KITTEN NO NO! WE DO NOT MURDER OTHER PETS…Any thoughts on how we can STREHGTHEN that thin wire barrier between The Ladies and the Cute but Deadly Gerbil Eviscerating Machine perched above them?


Posted by joshilyn at 8:36 PM | Comments (21)

October 14, 2007

Back from Baltimore

I have never been to Baltimore before.
I do not much feel like I have gone NOW. I was there for about 20 hours. Baltimore to me is mostly THE SHERATON HOTEL, but here is what I learned about this great and historic city as I cabbed through it and drank chocolate martinis in its fine lobby bar:

1) Baltimore has architecture.

2) Maryland’s idea of the rubber chicken hotel convention dinner = ENORMOUS CRABCAKE! (!!!!) The crab cake was not infested with BREADING, either, it was all CRAB. It had JUST enough other non-crab stuff to make the big chunks of delicious crab STICK into a cake. OH! YAY!

Apparently, Baltimore is LOUSY with crabs, and I mean that in the good way.

Hmm…That sounded less dirty in my head, but A LOT OF THINGS I have said have come out dirty and I think Baltimore architecture, what with all the old BRICKS and TILE INSETS and IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK-ISH HISTORY makes my mind feel more historical, and history is dirty.

3) The Sheraton has genuine pride in their crab cakes…and their MILK. For breakfast in the morning, I ordered a 4 dollar tiny box of Raisin Bran and a 5 dollar pot of coffee. +3 dollars for delivery and 18% included for delivery guy tip, which I have never understood how they can charge 3 dollars for him to deliver and 18% for him to deliver AND THEN there is a space for TIP on the thing you sign? Okay, FINE, that’s how room service is, I get that. BUT When the guy came, I took the bill to sign and saw they had charged me 4 more extra dollars on TOP of all that. Do you know why? You will never guess why. I looked and could figure it all out. CEREAL, 4 bucks. Coffee, 5 bucks…surcharge, fee, tip…and then four MYSTERY bucks. I asked what that charge was for…Wait for it…Wait for it…


Me: But I would think that cereal would just COME with Milk.
Delivery guy: Yes. It does. But you ordered milk separately.
Me: Wait, what? I didn’t order milk separately.
DG: Yes. On the phone you said, and can I have skim milk with that.
Me: Yes – I wasn’t ordering milk. I was specifying that the milk that came with the cereal should be skim.
DG: Oh. Well. I think it must be that it is supposed to come with whole milk, and then when you ordered skim they charged you for it.
Me: SO…but…. I only see one cup of skim milk. Where is the whole milk then that comes free with the cereal?
DG: I guess that they didn’t think you would want the milk that came with the cereal because you had ordered other milk separately.
Me: So I get free milk with cereal.
DG: Yes.
Me: But this particular milk here on the tray costs four dollars?
DG: Yes.
Me: So you kept the milk that came free with the cereal and substituted this four dollar milk?
DG: Seems like that is what must have happened.
Me: … Does that seem right to you? Mathematically?
DG: Well I can go get your free milk if you want it. The one that comes with the cereal.
Me: Which is NOT this milk here? This milk is the four dollar milk?
DG; Yes.
Me; And it doesn’t seem easier to you to KEEP the free milk and just not charge me for this milk? Like we could just TRADE milks?
DG: … You ordered milk.

Dear Grand Central Publishing,

I really try, when on the road, to spend YOUR money as if it were my own money. I don’t, for example, order nicer wine than I would pay for myself or try to get them to bill you for a Swedish Massage lady visit. I REALLY TRIED TO GET THE MILK SURCHARGE REMOVED HERE, but, alas, I was utterly defeated. MAYBE, if it HAD been my four bucks, I MIGHT have persevered. But it was YOUR four bucks, and HONESTLY by the time I got this guy to either BRING me the free milk or NOT CHARGE me for the milk I had, I would have missed my flight, and that would have cost you more in the long run.

SO! I hope I do not end up with a rep as a MILK PRIMA DONNA who prefers to substitute four dollar milk for FREE milk. What can I say. This is NOT just the beginning, and I swear this is not going to end with hookers and room services cocaine and all night Showtime on demand at 12 bucks a DEXTER episode on your dime. Alos? John? The super fab rep in Maryland? You might want to tell him to go by the Baltimore Sheraton with his own cereal for breakfast tomorrow. THEY FREAKING OWE GCP ONE CUP OF FREE MILK.


Posted by joshilyn at 11:09 PM | Comments (8)

October 11, 2007


I’m home from the mountain cabin my friend Anne loaned me so I could get some work done. I wrote and felt great and I lived in the mountains and YET! I was completely NOT killed and eaten by bears and I felt QUITE pleased about it all, it all, RIIIIIIIIIIGHT up until I hit the place where I had to stop writing because I have NO freakin’ idea what happens next in this book and can’t understand the timeline and I realized I spent three hours drafting a scene that is SO not needed and also a device I am heavily using is DEVICEY and must GO and then I threw all my junk in the car and pointed it toward home in a welter of despair and ate half a pound of dark chocolate honeycomb while berating myself for not having a clean garage to drive home to and on the way DOWN the mountain I leaned out my window and yelled to the bears, YOU SHOULD HAVE KILLED AND EATEN ME, YOU POUCHLESS MARSUPIAL PIECES OF CRAP!

Which, you know, you can’t be pouchless AND a marsupial. And also? Bears are class CARNIVORA. I should have said YOU POUCHLESS CARNIVORA PIECES OF CRAP, and even then, ALL Carnivora are by definition pouchless so it was a WASH, really. I think the bears were too confused to even feel properly insulted. And then I came home and slouched around whining about the dirty garage. And then I said to my husband:


Which, really the man is FORTY and I don’t think he has enough years left in his four score and ten to catalog the COMPLETE answer to that question, but he tried. I’ll give him that.

Him: Nothing is wrong with you. You are writing a book.

Me: BAH. POOH! POOH ON THAT! I am ALWAYS writing a book, and I am never like THIS.

*long meaningful silence*

Him:*cough* Um….You do this every time you write a book, every time you hit a wall on it. Right about now.


Him: Okay…but you do this every time. And it is never the garage.

Me: I do NOT, I never did!

Him: I am going to get a camera and FILM this because you never remember this part where you get like this but you are always like this right about now….hey wait. I think you even BLOGGED it last time. About how you were LIKE THIS and Lydia said you ALWAYS are right about now and you said NO you were not it was…whatever thing it was then. Not the garage. Not bears. But something. I remember you blogging this EXACT PHENOMENON with LYDIA in the role of person who reminds you that you always do this and you in the role of The Floppy Sorry-oo.

Which leads me to 3 conclusions:

1) I wish I had a retired racing dog, a greyhound, that I could name The Floppy Sorry-oo.
2) I don’t remember that.
3) Neither do you.

I think the FIRST conclusion is EMPIRICALLY TRUE and the last last two conclusions are like fairies, in that if you and I BELIEVE truly with true hearts that I never did this before or blogged it and that TRULY a clean garage would FIX IT ALL, and if we would only show our belief by CLAPPING OUR HANDS, then the day would be saved. Because if we clapped our hands LOUD ENOUGH for Scott to hear the clapping ring out over the world, then maybe he would go and clean the garage! AND THEN! OH THEN! HAPPINESS WOULD BLOSSOM LIKE DAISIES OPEN TO THE SUN AND THE BEARS WOULD GROW POUCHES AND KILL AND EAT PEOPLE UPON MY COMMAND!

I would fix the garage myself, but I have to go have chicken-n-dumplins and mental illness.

Posted by joshilyn at 5:26 PM | Comments (28)

October 8, 2007

Raised Right

Yesterday. my son’s Sunday school class was given was sheet with ten hypothetical MORAL DILEMMAS that might well come up in the life of an elementary school kid. He was told to take this sheet home and discuss with family how they would handle it. They could Avoid, Embrace, or try to CHANGE the situation. SO, on the drive to PETS BACKWARDS R EXPENSIVE (pause to tip a hat to Dave Barry), to buy three kinds of kibble, Gerbil feed, mice chews and dog chews and feather-topped cat toys, Sam brought the sheet and we had the following talk in the car…

Sam: A friend comes over to play and he brings the exact toy you have been wanting. When he goes home, he accidentally leaves the toy at your house. WHAT DO YOU DO?

Maisy: I would—

Sam: CHANGE THE SITUATION! I would give the toy back.


Maisy: *in a sour little voice* Sam says that’s the right pick, so I would give the toy back, too. If you keep it, you are a FIEF.

Me: Yes, that ones seems pretty simple. You could also---

Masiy: But I would be very jealous.

Me: Well, it’s okay to feel jealous. It’s what you do that matters when---


*small shocked pause*

Me: OR you could do extra chores and earn money and buy it for yourself.

Maisy: No. My WEAL fwend would say *goes into a fakey little high pitched sugary voice* OH MAISY, YOU ARE SO NICE AND I LOVE YOU SO YOU CAN KEEP MY TOY.

Me: So if a friend liked YOUR favorite toy best, you would---

Sam: NEXT! You get a soda from the machine at church, but it goes CRAZY and gives you at least five dollars in change back. What do you do? Dad, you go first this time.

Scott: I would take my ill-gotten loot to the church office and turn it in and tell them so they could fix the machine.

Sam: Me too. But that’s a lot of money.

Maisy: Me too.

NOW HERE, you understand, I am thinking that since no one seems to want to listen to my PREACHING, I can teach by choosing the WRONG BAD PATH and letting my children explain to ME why it is wrong. SEE? SEE? ISN’T THAT SMART PARENTING???? WOULDN’T YOU THINK?


*small shocked pause*

Maisy: Mom. That is NOT RIGHT!

Me: Really?

Sam: Yes, Mom, it is wrong on two levels. First, that’s stealing, because it isn’t your money, and stealing is wrong.

Scott: What else did she do wrong?

Sam: Well, if you ARE going to take it, it’s wrong to look around all sneaky and then run. You should just walk away CASUALLY.

*face plant*
I need a third. These two, I have already wrecked.

Posted by joshilyn at 6:53 AM | Comments (30)

October 3, 2007

Star Spangled Footnotes

Thank you for the audio book recs. I now have a list of about 5 culled from your ideas – many I had to NOT take because I had already read them in BOOK form, and OH, you mentioned some of my favorites. SHADOW OF THE WIND, for example, a pitch perfect book, and OH how I love that Neil Gaimon. AMERICAN GODS is my fave of his, but ANANSI BOYS is my second fave. From now on I will NOT be buying his books – I am shifting him to Lee Child territory, where I SAVE him for audio because you are right, I bet his stuff is AWESOME on audio.*

And now, it’s time to BYOS (bring your own segue….)

I don’t believe in writer’s block, but this is because I suspect writer’s block of being like hobgoblins. If you BELIEVE in their rubber-lipped green mouths filled with snaggled fangs and slaver, you may give them the power to be. And to eat you alive. From the feet on up. **

So, I don’t believe in writer’s block. OR Hobgoblins, for the record, and for any foot hungry nonexistent one that might be reading this. Even when I was writing THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING, which had to be thrown out in its entirely once and thrown out in its halfery*** another time before I hooked into the voice, I wasn’t BLOCKED. I never was NOT WRITING it. I was writing it… I was just writing it BADLY, and I had to pitch out such huge chunks of steaming crap to get to the good meat of it that TGWSS (pronounced “togwiss”) got renamed TBTAKM (pronounced tibby-tak-em) which stands for THE BOOK THAT ALMOST KILLED ME. Or maybe it should have been TBTAAMAFTFOU (Tibby-ta-ah-mafty-foo) which stands for THE BOOK THAT ALMOST ATE ME ALIVE FROM THE FEET ON UP.****

It was worth it.

And worth repeating that I was never BLOCKED. Because there is no block, grasshopper. There is no owl. There is no boy*****…There are no MUSES, although if I DID believe in them, I would tend to think I had one much like Stephen King’s dirty little scruffy bush-hiding beast-dog-monkey thing. But mine is a boy.

I DO believe in my own AMAZING powers of procrastination, OH YES I DO! Never put off til tomorrow what you can get out of doing entirely, was my September motto.

This new book has a hard timeline because it wants to be a swing dancer. I wouldn’t call it a SEQUEL. But in some real and thematic ways it is a companion book to gods in Alabama, and so it cannot be linier in time. gods in Alabama went back and forth, but this one seems to want to do chonoftic ****** loop-de-loops around a central event. Where gods was like a pendulum, this thing is currently structured like a tether-ball game, whipping around in one direction and then getting smacked in the face and swinging back the other. It’s a fast read but a SLOW write. I am getting frustrated with my ability to NOT write it. I am AMAZING at not writing it. Even as it comes together in my head, I am SO busy finding ways to NOT put my sorry butt in this chair and make with the keyboard tippy-taps…


Imma go on retreat. Next week I have a clear schedule and I am borrowing some SPACE from a BEAUTIFUL friend and going to squat in it with no sensory input and no THINGS drooping over me needing to be done like, organize my basement. I cannot organize my basement when I am many hours of driving away from it, is my reasoning. TODAY I have the WHOLE glorious morning clear to draft this next chunk, and I am SO not wanting to draft that organizing my basement seems not only POSSIBLE but DOWNRIGHT ENTICING. That’s SICK! I REFUSE to organize that basement! I am going to go write. RIGHT NOW. SEE. THIS IS ME GOING…

Anybody want to play online scrabble?

*Allow me to scrub my toe in the dust and thank you for the VERY kind words about the audio versions of my books. Ya’ll’re swell.


*** Halfery is so totally a word. It means something like “half of the entirety.”

**** Tibby-ta-ah-mafty-foo is so fun to say that I am now calling the kitten Mafty-foo. He already thinks his name is RIBBON because I have been calling him ribbon kitty all week. He all at once got long and skinny, though, like a ribbon fish, so this is hardly MY fault. I think my animals must all have ongoing identity crises. See also: “Waffles.”

***** Lines from T.H. White’s completely perfect book, The Once and Future King

****** Yes. Absolutely. This is a true word.

Posted by joshilyn at 10:28 AM | Comments (15)

October 2, 2007

2 Questions with YOU and then 3 with Judy Merrill Larsen

1) I need a new audio book. I got TERRIBLY spoiled because I listened to THE 13th TALE and it is literally the best audio book I have ever heard. Then I tried listening to a caper sort of thing and then a mystery by an author I QUITE like, usually, but BLEH. They both seemed flat and dreadful. I blame The 13th Tale for being TOO good, too twisty, too smart, and TOO BRILLIANTLY ACTED to allow for anything to follow it well. I have finally found an audio that is living up to 13th Tale….THE BOOK THIEF But I have several road trips coming up, this one won’t last through them, and I ask you…WHAT THEN?

Have any audio books rocked your world lately? OR have any books rocked your world and you feel they will be GOOD on audio? A book that is good on audio has, by definition, a fast pace and a BIG scoop of plot. I can’t listen to beautifully written slice of lifey things without running off the road and dying. Spare me anything that purports to have “rich depths explored in quiet, luscious prose,” because that’s for READING. Not 6 hours of highway time.

2) What is the ANGLE on the new spams I am getting that offer me PUPPIES? They are from people named Agnes Buttell and Darlene Cowery – like these FAKEY sounding TV names—Agenes, Darlene, etc all claim to be NURSES who have inherited some sort of PUREBRED dog and the dog accidentally meets up with ANOTHER purebred dog of the same sort and now they have these DARLING purebred puppies that need homes. Are PUPPY MILLS so lucrative that Canadian pharmacies are running them on the side? I don’t even want to MEET the person who thinks a good day’s online shopping involves CIALIS and a Doberman. I don’t want to even know that person exists. BUT STILL, I can’t figure the angle? Is it just to try and get a response so they see if this email is valid? Will it end in RUSSIAN BRIDES or PHARMECEUTICALS or EUROPEAN LOTTERIES or a nice friend, Mrs. Balboa, who just needs my help to move 15 million dollars out of her country, and if I help her, I can keep just BUNCHES of it!

AH well, give me the scoop if you know it. Meanwhile, meet Judy Merrill Larsen. She is the author of ALL THE NUMBERS, a novel that explores how love makes us vulnerable and how very isolating yet very human is the desire for revenge. A trial takes us to a highly charged ending…

Booklist says that “Larsen’s compelling debut…depicts a mother’s year of grief and recovery with a sure and honest voice,” and Cassandra King just LOVED this book, which is reason enough to add it to my TO BE READ pile.

JJ: What's a day in your life like?

JL: A good writing day for me includes nice weather, good coffee and self-discipline. Unfortunately I only have control over the coffee (if I had the self-discipline I wouldn't need it, you know?) But, here's a perfect writing day--everyone in the house is off to school and/or work by 7:30 or so. I watch a little of Matt and Meredith, check my e-mail, drink that first cup of coffee. About 8:30, I put the dog out back, take my next cup of coffee and my legal pads out to the front porch where I write for an hour or two. It's flowing well and the time and pages fly. At 11, I go to the gym, then come home, shower, have some lunch. That afternoon, I have some tea, enter what I wrote that morning into the document on my laptop and do my first edit. I check my word count, and hooray, I'm nearly to 1500 words. I'm so proud of myself and my self-discipline, that I grab a cookie and go over the section again, tweaking, filling in, adding texture. Before I know it I'm way past the 1500 mark, so I hit spellcheck and SAVE. The kids start trickling back home, I fiddle around with dinner, and by the time my husband gets home we're both ready for a glass of wine on the front porch before we eat.

In reality, I go to the porch and get stuck. I decide to do a load of wash (or, worse, yesterday I felt compelled to refill every hand soap dispenser in the house). I finally holler at myself that the book won't write itself and I need to get out there and write 10 pages or I won't be able to look myself in the mirror. So, I do that. I write. And it's pretty good. But when I go back in the kitchen to refill my coffee, I discover I'd forgotten to put the dog out back and he's stealthily tipped over the garbage can and spread it all over the floor. But he's now wagging his tail and looking cute even if he does have coffee grounds all over his snout.
JJ: Who did you dedicate this book to and why?

I dedicated ALL THE NUMBERS to my mom and my sons. The book's about a mom and her sons--the mom I sometimes am, the mom I hope never to be, and the mom I sometimes wish I was. It's about family and friends and love and loss (but I guess, most books are when you break it down to the basics). Anyway, my mom is great, and even though I didn't appreciate her when I was growing up, I found that so much of her mothering comes out in my own mothering. I learned from the best. So I dedicated it to her for setting the standard. And my sons, well, they were my other teachers in how to be a mom. They taught me every day, even when I wasn't much of a student. I know I wasn't perfect, and there were some days I probably really stunk it up. But they loved me anyway. And they watched me and cheered me on all the years I was writing it and trying to get it published. So I dedicated it to them for sticking with me and forgiving me when I didn't live up to those standards my mom had set.

JJ: Tell us about the fears that are part of being a parent.

JL: The essence of All the Numbers is rooted in the fears that every parent has, shoved as far below the surface as we can push them, but present nonetheless.
For me, those universal fears of all parents first bubbled to the surface the night, four weeks before his due date, that my oldest son was born by emergency caesarean section. Up until the last twenty minutes of it, my pregnancy had been textbook perfect. I’d eaten cottage cheese by the bucketful and not a drop of caffeine or wine had crossed my lips. I’d exercised the appropriate amount, put my feet up when necessary, and taken my vitamins. But still, in spite of my care, with no warning, we both nearly died because my placenta separated from the uterine wall. Nothing could have prevented it; nothing could have predicted it. And I learned one of the immutable truths of parenting--no matter how cautious, loving, protective and concerned we are, no matter how long we breastfeed, how many books we read aloud, or how much we limit TV time, bad things can happen. And then what?

When I forced myself to imagine the worst, I always wondered if I would rise to the occasion or sink into the abyss. When I explored these possibilities through Ellen--who is sarcastic and impatient and cluttered--and madly in love with her kids, I tried to be as fair as I could. I wanted her to eventually rise to the occasion (as I hoped I would), but not until she had wallowed in the depths (as I knew I would).

No matter how mundane we think our lives are, many of us will face extraordinary events at least once in our lives. And when we do, it is easy to think, why me? I played by the rules, I’m not a bad person, so why this? Why the illness or the unfaithful spouse or the tornado? When I read about mothers who have faced catastrophe, I always wish I could get a six-month follow-up. How’d they get out of bed the next day? How long before they started making supper? Did they ever genuinely laugh again?

These were the questions I tried to answer for myself through Ellen.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:48 AM | Comments (24)