Category Archives: The rest of my life

An A-Read Update

It has been quite a long while since I updated you on my kids’ reading habits. The beginning of a new year seems like the appropriate time. So, today we’ll start with A-Read.

In school, his 5th grade class just finished Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan. His teacher loaned me the book so I could read it, too. A-Read did an excellent job on his final report, I’m told. He enjoyed it, and I was happy for him to have a bit of a break from his usual fantasy books.

Actually, this has been a year of variety for him. In addition to the historical Esperanza, he has been reading plenty of Rick Riordan (of course): he’s up to date on the Heroes of Olympus series and read the first 2 Kane Chronicles. But also some non-fiction by Steve Sheinkin: Bomb and Lincoln’s Grave Robbers so far, but we just bought his most recent, The Port Chicago 50, and he has been planning to read The Notorious Benedict Arnold).

His school planned book-reading events in January, including a parent-child discussion of Wonder by wonder cvrRJ Palacio. When I brought the book home, A-Read was really excited. His class had started reading it in 4th grade, but didn’t finish, and he’d enjoyed it. We both read it a couple of weeks ago, and both got a lot out of it. (He’s disappointed that our dog won’t sleep in his bed, like Auggie’s dog, Daisy.) And A-Read did a great job in the discussion. He made some good points and made me a very proud mama.

Now he’s back to the LOTR trilogy, reading the 2nd one, The Two Towers.

He has already exceeded the reading requirement for his grade level at school.

Have you stepped out of your reading comfort zone in the past few months?




Filed under Reading, The rest of my life

A-Read Update

So now that Sprite is a regular reader (currently working on the 10th Captain Underpants), it’s time for an update on A-Read (almost 10 years old). Here’s a list of his recent reads:

The BFG, Roald Dahl
The Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings, Book 1), J.R.R. Tolkien
Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, Steve Sheinkin
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling

Next on his shelf:

The Last Musketeer, Stuart Gibbs
The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere, Book 1), Jacqueline West

So as usual, he’s into fantasy (with a brief foray into non-fiction). But within that broad genre, he’s into a little bit of everything.

What’s on your shelf?


Filed under Reading, The rest of my life

My Littlest Reader

I knew this day would come. I knew someday my younger child would love to read. He spent almost 7 years watching his family read and talk about books. When he started learning to read, I knew it was just a matter of time. But it hit me the other day, when he woke up at 5:30 AM to go to the bathroom and then decided to read instead of going back to sleep, that he had arrived.

He is a reader like the rest of us.

So now, he finally gets his own nickname on this blog: Sprite. I think it captures his cuteness and his sense of wonder.

What book had Sprite reading so early in the morning? Captain Underpants #8. Sigh. Capt Underpants 9 cvr

He also loves the Magic Tree House books, but he stopped at #18 to finish up the Captain Underpants series. Despite my discomfort with the subject matter (I will NEVER understand the intense humor in potty situations), these books have helped him jump three reading levels in a couple of months. And I know that as soon as he finishes book 10, he’ll go back to the Magic Tree House books. He even has the next several already waiting on his bedside table.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll update you on A-Read’s current reading list. In the meantime, what’s your child’s favorite book you love to hate?

(Oh, and Happy Poisson d’avril!)


Filed under Reading, The rest of my life

Remembrances of New Jersey

In honor of today being the day we observe Veterans Day in the United States, I have two goals:

First, thank you to RocketMan for his service to our country. He’ll wave this away and want me to instead thank and honor the men and women fighting right now for our freedom. And I do thank them. But everyone who served even a day deserves our thanks. So…thanks.

Second, I need to remember the Jersey Shore in the wake of Sandy’s destruction. I wasn’t born a Jersey Girl, but I grew up only two hours away from the shore. My friends and I spent the weekend after our prom at Seaside Heights. I lived in Hoboken for a few years when I first came back from Africa. And RocketMan and I told his family about our first pregnancy at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant.

RocketMan grew up near there. He has many more memories than I do. Knowing how much those photos break my heart, I can’t even imagine how he and my in-laws and some of our closest friends feel. A piece of their childhoods are now gone.

Rebuilding will be a long, hard road, but worth it in the end to so many people.

Thank you for reading my maudlin post today. Now I’ll go back to NaNoWriMo, work, and the kids. What do you go back to?


Filed under The rest of my life

I’m Back

So you may have noticed I haven’t been around much (here, on your blogs, on Twitter) for the past month. If you didn’t notice, I’m sorry but I’m just too busy to get upset. That would have upset me two months ago since I have a need to be liked and missed and stuff. But now, as I said, I’m too busy.

About a month ago I got a new job. It’s related to French-teaching, not writing, but it’s the job I’ve been waiting for since my youngest son went to school full time. You know, the job I could feel good about. The job I could get passionate about. The job that didn’t put my education and experience to waste.

On top of the new job, I’m still taking care of my kids and making sure they do their homework and feeding them when my husband is away and laundering their clothes. And stuff. Among the “and stuff” is the sweater I’m crocheting for A-Read. I’m currently on the second sleeve so it’s almost done. But then I have to make a sweater for #2 son (gosh, I still don’t have a suitable nickname for him).

And I’m still reading. Of course. I couldn’t live without reading. And I’m still writing, but at a much slower pace than ever before.

I had started a new wip just before I got the new job and I’m still really excited about this new book. It’s different than anything else I’ve ever written. The main character is more different from me than any other character I’ve ever written. I’m allowing it to happen in dribs and drabs for now, but I plan to do NaNo again this year. And I WILL finish the wip in November.

Yup. You heard it here.

So what have you all been up to in the past month? Tell me about all your wonderful projects, whether reading, writing, or crafty, or whatever. I’m hungry for your news.


Filed under The rest of my life

Writing from the Womb (Blast from the Past)


This is a repost from August 2009:

I read a post recently on agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog about not saying in a query how long you’ve been writing unless it’s relevant. Apparently, some people like to include that they’ve been writing since birth, thinking that will impress an agent, or that it serves as valid publishing experience. I am not such a prodigy. I don’t remember birth. In fact, like most people, I don’t remember much of the first 4 years of my life.

However, I remember writing a mystery story in 7th grade. It took place on a cruise ship and was influenced by Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, and Agatha Christie. A friend read my first 12 pages, hand-written of course, and told me it was “vivid.” I lost steam after that.

I wrote a song on the piano in 9th grade. Oh, let me clarify – I wrote lyrics and a melody. My brother can still sing it more than twenty years later:

I’ve worked hard the past few years,
Now it’s gonna pay off.
Hard work, persistence and talent
Are all I need,
To go to the top… (la la la la la)

Here I go, I’m on my way,
Not gonna let anything stand in my way.
I’m goin’ all the way
To the top.
Gonna be number one
When I go To the top.

Not surprisingly, my career as a songwriter was short-lived.

In high school I took a creative writing class, wrote poetry, and even entered a contest (got an Honorable Mention!). I also lazed around a lot on the hammock strung between two huge trees, and sang to myself in English and French, while contemplating the big issues in life. Crushes, avoiding helping my dad in the garden, friends, where do people go when they die, my annoying my little brother…

In college I took a course on reading and writing short stories. I wrote three short stories and had them critiqued by the class. We then revised our stories and had a private conference with the professor. This definitely prepared me for my life as a writer today. Critique groups, conferences, consultations with editors and agents.

I started writing a novel in graduate school (I have a Master’s in International Relations), influenced by my year as a student in Paris. Unfortunately, my computer kept crashing in the middle of writing papers, so my father replaced the motherboard. Bye-bye novel. That experience taught me to always back up my work.

Now here I am, all this time later, four manuscripts under my belt, the fifth underway. Querying agents, attending conferences, critiquing and being critiqued. Most of this information won’t end up in a query letter, but it has made me who I am today.

Maybe I should revisit that novel set in Paris…

Update July 2012: Six manuscripts under my belt and a seventh underway. I’ve definitely learned persistence.

What has made you who you are today?


Filed under The rest of my life, writing

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Vanished

Author Shannon Whitney Messenger began Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays a while back. If you love middle grade literature, check out her blog on Mondays for a list of other sites featuring MG books.

Today I’ll talk about Vanished by Sheela Chari.

From Goodreads: Eleven-year-old Neela dreams of being a famous musician, performing for admiring crowds on her traditional Indian stringed instrument. Her particular instrumentused to be her grandmother’s—made of warm, rich wood, and intricately carved with a mysterious-looking dragon. When this special family heirloom vanishes from a local church, Neela is devastated. As she searches for it, strange clues surface: a teakettle ornamented with a familiar-looking dragon, a threatening note, a connection to a famous dead musician, and even a legendary curse. The clues point all the way to India, where it seems that Neela’s intrument has a long history of vanishing and reappearing. If she is able to track it down, will she be able to stop it from disappearing again?

From Vicki: This book is sooooo up my alley. Multi-cultural elements. Music. Mystery. An exotic setting (at the end). And it did not disappoint.

Neela’s love/hate relationship with her veena reminded me of my own middle school years with my oboe. I only wish my oboe had such a history! I was taken enough by the story that I had to look up veenas online to see if I was picturing the traditional Indian instrument correctly.

And like any great middle grade novel, this is a coming of age story. Neela discovers herself and the person she wants to be while uncovering the mystery of her missing veena.

What’s your favorite book that combines a “foreign” culture and the arts?


Filed under Reading, The rest of my life