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First Day of School

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So, Emily the cutie (that is her official name), started her junior year at college today on the same day that people around here are posting their adorable first-day-of-school-kid pictures.



IMG_4934And I miss her and worry about her CONSTANTLY because that's how I am.

But, anyway, I found this old Livejournal post from December 2005, from my first month blogging, from when people actually commented on my blog and I actually knew everyone who did. All very weird.



My daughter wants to quit sixth grade.


Yesterday, as a result of a student rep meeting, the school stopped serving cookies.

Em, my daughter, said at the student rep meeting that it seemed strange to her that the school sells cookies for a quarter and salad for a dollar, when there’s this big “Healthy Eating Campaign.” She said it made it easier for rich kids to eat healthy. She said buying a cookie is more convenient than no more salads.

The principal wrote in the minutes, “Kids question cost of healthy food vs cookies.”

The cook read it, thought, “They want no snack food. I’ll get rid of the cookies.”

She did.

Now. there are no more cookies. Now, there is no more ice cream. Not Em’s intention. Nor did she know it was happening. She likes cookies. She loves ice cream. She just doesn’t eat them all the time.

So, yesterday, a mean eighth grader named Sebastian spent all of recess running around demanding to know whose fault it was. Someone said Em mentioned something about cookies at a rep meeting. Sebastian with an ever-growing gang of followers found some of Em’s friends and surrounded them.

“Do you know Emily?” they demanded. “Where is she?”

“She’s in Mr. Stackpole’s room, working on an essay.”

The bell rang. Three eighth grade boys sprinted for Mr. Stackpole’s room, where ring leader, Sebastian yelled in Emily’s face, “There are no cookies! There are no cookies! Bitch!”

Em had no idea what he was talking about. Because she is totally tough, she tried to ignore them. They didn’t stop. Her classmates filtered in.

“You took our cookies!” Sebastian screamed.

Em gave in, looked up at the face of a big eighth grade boy, who easily outweighs her by a hundred pounds and said in her takes-no-prisoners way, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Yes, Em does say sentences like that with that kind of Liam Nieson composure. I hear them all the time, especially when I ask her if she’s ready to go to wake up for school.

So, another classmate tells them to leave her alone and the boys leave when the teacher comes. Em is filled in about the cookie thing. All the 7th and 8th graders are angry at her. The sixth graders get it. The principal talks about it at the honors banquets. Emily, really, really, really does not want to go to school again.

“I do not like eighth grade boys,” she tells me this morning. “I really do not like them.”

“That’s okay,” I tell her.

“Is that what men are like?” she says. “Men?”

I nod. “Not all men. Not all boys. Not all people are like that. Girls are mean too, right?”

“Yeah,” she says and stares out the window, “I guess.”



And as I'm reading this post, I'm sort of wondering how this event helped shape Emily into the awesome person she is today. How awesome?

1. She could be my body guard.
2. She goes to Harvard and has a super-high GPA but she is still nice and not pretentious.
3. She still thinks healthy choices should be as inexpensive as not-so-healthy choices

I am proud of her, so super proud of her. Not because she is strong or smart, but because she has so much integrity and so much will, because she battles it out in crappy situations and doesn't publicly lose her cool. I am proud of her because she is such a warrior. And I really can't wait until she doesn't have any more first-days of school. I think she can't wait either.

Two more years, Em. Unless you go to graduate school. Maybe take a gap year, okay?


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Why Revising a Novel is Like A Firefighter Carwash

No. Really it is.

So, usually when I start revising a book, I feel like this:

IMG_5431
This is the person organizing the fundraiser, which was a bunch of firefighters washing cars to raise money for Dana Farber's efforts to eradicate cancer. Notice how she has money in her hand? That's sort of like an author after the publisher buys her book and gives her an advance. Also, notice how she is hunkering down with her hands raised? This is because she is totally overwhelmed because she now has to REVISE her book.

Okay... Which brings us to this stage... See this guy? He has started actually revising or as I like to call it SUDSING UP THE SUV.
IMG_5313
He's working hard. He's lightly touching the handle of the door for balance or in case he needs to escape all the suds... Because, seriously? LOOK AT ALL THE SUDS! These are all the corrections and insertions that need to be done, all the track changes. It is the cleaning up of the dirt, eradicating the mistakes...

How the heck is he ever going to manage this?
No. Seriously. HOW?

Because it isn't just about the suds it is about GETTING RID OF ALL THE SUDS, which I call the HOSING OFF! This is where the author is like, "Holy cannoli, I used the word, LOOK, 847 times in an 87,000 word manuscript. Whimper.

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 But the HOSING OFF stage is okay. I promise, because it makes us better writers with better vocabularies. It makes us rethink the moments where we use weak words, our go-to words, and we hose them the heck out of there to make a cleaner, stronger SUV... I mean book.

Plus, it defines our forearms as evidenced by the above firefighter. Managing a hose (or a vocabulary) is hard work. It builds up muscle.

And it's also about the next stage, REFINING, paying attention to detail or as I like to call it CLEANING THE RIMS OF YOUR TIRE THINGIES... Hubcaps? Those are hubcaps, right? Obviously, my vocabulary skills still need some work.
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This stage of revising is that part where you go through the manuscript all over again and again, look for plot holes, repetition, emotional depth, inconsistencies in logic, all that arch stuff (internal, physical, emotional), and more. This is the nitty-gritty part. It requires bending and a soft, bright blue cloth.

And it seems overwhelming, right? It seems almost impossible? But it's not. And do you know why it's not? Because you are not alone.

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Just like these firefighters working on a policeman's car, washing it clean, aren't alone, YOU the writer aren't alone either. There is an editor, a copy editor, sometimes beta readers, sometimes teachers, sometimes agents, readers, your check-out clerk at the grocery store, publicists, marketing people, random friends with ideas, women at bars, random blogs with suggestions, all sorts of people out there at the computer with you, helping your brain to gather all the things you have ever learned to make the right choices, the strongest choices to get the cleanest car story that you can have.

That's so cool, isn't it?

So, often writers go into revision feeling like we are all alone. But we never are. There is a community of people present, and learning past, that is right there with us, hosing off, detailing, worrying, and cleaning. At least that's what I tell myself when I start to feel lonely and worry and get scared.

I get scared all the time. That's okay. We all do.



*These pictures are all from the Bar Harbor (Maine) Fire Department's Car Wash this Spring where firefighters cleaned cars to raise money to support Dana-Farber's efforts to eradicate cancer. Our past fire chief, David Rand, died of cancer yesterday. He was a great loss, a hero, a man who served. The entire community will miss him. My deepest sympathy goes out to his family and friends.
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