Revising vs. Rewriting

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I’ve spent a lot of time over the last eight months revising my first book. I’m on the sixth draft and it’s been through a lot of changes. I’ve had many, many people read it and I’ve taken a lot of their comments and rewritten sentences, paragraphs, even chapters. But through all that, I never quite understood when people said they were “rewriting”. I always felt like I was just revising.

That’s because I was.

And now, after workshopping the book up at Write by the Lake in Madison, I’m rewriting. And I finally understand the difference. And it’s terrifying. Continue reading

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Pregnancy Photos: 35 Weeks

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Here we go! I’m finally getting really big. Although honestly, I wish I were a little bigger because I feel super crowded inside. My organs are all shoved up into my lungs and it feels like the boy is constantly pushing on my bladder. Yay!

35 Weeks Pregnant

I mean, seriously, how many times can a person get up to pee in the middle of the night? If you said 4 or 5, you’d be right. Is it any wonder I look exhausted in this picture?

On the plus side, physical therapy is awesome and my SI joint pain is pretty much all gone. Even with all the moving, lifting things, bending down to unpack, etc, it hasn’t come back. So that’s huge.

What isn’t actually huge is me: I’ve stopped gaining weight and by fundal height I’m measuring about two weeks behind. Which is exactly what was happening with Addie at this point in my pregnancy with her……. And she was nine days late. All of which has made me finally admit to myself that this baby might be just as late as she was. Dear god, I really hope not.

It doesn’t seem possible because my braxton hicks have gotten super intense. They send aches wrapping around my back and radiating down my legs. It’s still nothing like real labor contractions, but they’re pretty strong. It sure feels like it must mean labor isn’t too far away. But my midwives assure me that I just have a “talkative uterus” and it’s probably not causing any progress. We’re going to check at my next appointment (next week) to see if I’m dilating or effacing at all. Fingers crossed!

I guess the good thing about going full term or longer is that it gives me a little more time. More time with Addie. More time with just one child. More time to settle into the new house. More time to work on my book (more on that soon!). More time to sleep – even if it is interrupted by lots of peeing. More time to get ready for an infant again…

In the meantime, I’m just trying to enjoy this last bit of quiet time with my boy. I can feel knees and elbows and feet jabbing me all over, and sometimes he stretches up and shoves a foot into my ribs. He still seems really chill and I can’t wait to meet him and see what he’s like.

5 weeks! (Or maybe more…..)

Stairway to Anxiety

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We’re getting settled into the new house. Which is, technically, a townhouse. Meaning that it’s tall and narrow: four stories tall, to be exact. And that’s a lot of stairs.

It already feels like home after only five days, but the stairs are definitely the biggest adjustment. Especially since our previous apartment was all on one level. And ESPECIALLY since I’m eight months pregnant.

You learn pretty quickly that going up and down that many stairs all day long is just too exhausting. So you start to plan out when you’re going upstairs, when you’re coming back down, and what you need to bring with you when you go either way. Which is all a little more effort, but I’m adjusting.

What I’m not adjusting to as well is Addie on the stairs. She’s two and a half years old, she can do stairs just fine. But she hasn’t had a ton of experience with them. And more importantly, I haven’t had a ton of experience watching her do them. I’m not used to the idea of her just climbing up and down stairs like it’s no big deal. But that’s what she wants to do.

Stairs

She doesn’t think twice about just running upstairs if she wants to grab her Rainbow Dash doll, or running downstairs if she wants her ipad. Meanwhile I’m chasing after her, my heart racing, images of her crashing down the stairs crowding out all rational thinking. I know she can do it, but I’m still terrified. Continue reading

Whirlwind Week

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The last six days have been nothing short of insane. I’m so exhausted that I don’t even know where to start. But I hear the beginning is a good place, so I’ll go with that.

On Saturday the seller’s moved out and we finally got to walk into our new house – owners and in possession. It was a pretty amazing feeling. We own a house.

And not only are the house and neighborhood great (which is why we bought) but on Saturday we stumbled into a block party and discovered that our neighbors are great, too! There’s a courtyard in the complex of townhomes and apparently all the kids play out there all the time. We could hardly drag Addie away when it was time to go home and work on more packing.

Block Party in the courtyard

Block Party in the courtyard

We spent Sunday moving over small loads, but the big stuff had to wait because the house got repainted this week. The seller’s had a flair for bold color – including a greenish-yellow and a bright orange – something that we don’t share. We’re a bit more understated. The amount of painting required four days and was finished today.

The living room at the new house - with the old paint.

The living room at the new house – with the old paint.

Which is fantastic, because we move in tomorrow. Ho-ly Cats, you guys. We move to our new house tomorrow!

Of course, I haven’t been much help with packing because, you know, I’ve spent the entire week up in Madison at the Write By The Lake conference. As if I wasn’t stressed enough already. (Because in case you didn’t know, having six strangers critique your entire book is, well, super stressful.)

It’s been an amazing experience, and I still have one more day. I’m trying to process it all – I’ve gotten a ton of feedback and ideas, but now I need to figure out which ones make sense for my book and which don’t. I’ve met some great people and learned a lot.

Writing by the Lake.

Writing by the Lake.

I’ve also done more driving than I’ve done in years. I drove up to Madison on Monday morning (3 hours). Then back to Chicago yesterday afternoon to pick up Addie (3 hours), then up to Milwaukee to take Addie to my parents’ house (1.5 hours), then back to Madison this morning (1.5 hours). And I’ll be driving back to Milwaukee to pick her up tomorrow (1.5 hours) then back down to Chicago (1.5 hours). My pregnant belly is getting big, so sitting in the car is a pain (literally). But I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to be up here and that Addie has been so well-taken-care-of in the interim. The driving is worth it.

And when we drive back down to Chicago tomorrow I’ll have to remember to get off at our new exit: we’ll be driving to our new house!

Insanity!

I’ll write more about the conference when I’ve processed it and more about the house once we’re settled in. Fun times!

Pregnancy Photos: 32 Weeks

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It’s a little late, but here’s my 32 week picture. The photos seem to be getting worse and worse, which I suppose means David is getting just as sick of this pregnancy as I am. Or at least that he’s getting sick of taking pictures of me. Oh well.

32 Weeks Pregnant

With eight weeks to go I’m tipping the scales at 30 pounds gained. Fan-tas-tic. The reflux took a week or so off, but it’s back in full effect now. And my relaxin-induced joint loosening is getting worse and worse. So bad, in fact, that I’ve started physical therapy for it.

I’ve never done physical therapy before, so I had no idea what to expect. It turns out that so far I basically just get a massage for 45 minutes and then they send me home with some exercises to do. Twice a week. Paid for by my insurance. I can live with that! Supposedly we’re starting “deep bone work” tomorrow, though, so the massages might be over. Sad day.

The highlight of the last few weeks has been an increase in movement. Or not movement exactly, but an increase in what I can feel, since the baby is getting bigger and the amniotic fluid level is maxed out (so the book says). So now instead of just some random nudge, I can tell that it’s actually a foot or an elbow. And that’s pretty freaking cool. I’m carrying basically the same as I was with Addie and he’s doing the same thing she was at this stage: he’s head down and he’ll push his feet out to my right side and his butt out to my left side, stretching me out as he stretches his legs. It’s pretty adorable.

Not so adorable are the intense Braxton Hicks contractions that I’m getting. I’ve had them since about 20 weeks, but at this point they’re pretty extreme. Much worse than they were with Addie. Obviously it’s still nothing compared to real labor, but they can leave my abdomen sore by the end of the day. And I get them ALL the time. The books say to call if you get more than four in an hour, but I’d be calling every single day if I did that. My midwives assure me that it’s normal in second pregnancies and that I’ll know if something isn’t right. Which I’m sure is true. But it’s still really annoying.

Other than that, I’m just trying to get through the move and settling in. It’s hard to imagine having a baby when we have another major life change just a week away. I think once we’re moved the next few weeks will go really fast. At least I hope so.

8 weeks to go!!

Stage Fright

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On Saturday morning Adeline’s school had a little graduation ceremony for the Kindergarten students. Every classroom was invited to attend and they all had a couple songs to sing. Addie’s class – the two to three year olds – was going to sing two songs.

The teachers told us about it a couple weeks ago and I was really excited. But also, I had a suspicion that she wouldn’t want to get up and sing when the time actually came. See, she’s been really clingy lately. Probably because we’re moving and she’s about to be a big sister. Changes are afoot that she doesn’t really understand. Hell, I’m nervous and anxious about it and I’m doing it all voluntarily and with full understanding. It makes sense that she’s a little scared and confused.

So I thought maybe we should just skip it. But she seemed excited about it and I didn’t want to take away the opportunity. So we woke up early on Saturday morning, piled into the car and drove to the graduation.

As soon as we walked into the hall I knew I was right: it was crowded and noisy and she made me pick her up and then buried her head in my neck. But I took her over to where her class was gathered and tried to convince her to sit with them. She refused. So I sat there with her and when the time came for them to go on stage, I tried to convince her to go on stage. She still refused.

I did my best to stay positive and she sang the songs on my lap and even did the little motions (the songs were The Wheels on the Bus and Skidamarink-a-Dink). Halfway through the second song she was so happy and excited that she jumped out of my lap and made her way to the stage. But right as she was about to go on, the song ended. I just about cried.

But she turned around happily and ran back to my lap. So I kept the smile on my face and clapped along with her.

When it was all over, though, I felt miserable. Continue reading

In defense of Rainbow Dash

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Adeline has recently become obsessed with My Little Ponies. At first, I was a bit distraught. They seemed like the worst versions of the overly “girly” girls who are one-dimensional and stereotypical. But they’re actually not that bad: each episode has a lesson about friendship and the ponies often show strengths that you wouldn’t expect.

Addie’s favorite pony is Rainbow Dash, who’s pretty cool. She’s a Pegasus who loves nothing more than flying as fast as she can. Her best characteristics are her bravery, loyalty and fearlessness. In one episode the other girls are getting manicures and Rainbow Dash can’t possibly be convinced to get one – she’s too busy running and playing. Adeline has a Rainbow Dash doll that she loves to make fly all over the house.

flying_rainbow_dash

So of course, when we were at the bookstore today and I told Addie she could get one book, her eyes magically went right to a My Little Ponies book. It was on the bargain rack and came with figurines, so how could I resist?

Except that when we got home and opened it, I got a surprise. They’ve completely destroyed Rainbow Dash. Continue reading

Moving On Up

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Awhile ago I mentioned that we were trying to get our housing situation sorted out and that I would update you. So here’s the update!

When we moved back from Denver we rented an apartment and the lease on the apartment is up June 30th. Baby boy is due August 2, so we pretty much needed to figure out if we were staying or going and if going, where, pretty quickly. Not a lot of flexibility when you’ve got a baby on the way.

After various negotiations with our unpleasant landlord, we decided the choice was definitely going. But where? We didn’t want to move into another rental only to have to move again in a year. After two cross-country moves in the last two years we’re pretty much over moves.

So we entered the housing market. Which happens to be insane in Chicago right now. A new place would come online, I’d favorite it and two days later it would already be under contract. We knew we needed to move quickly anyway (that damn June 30th deadline) and the market was telling us we needed to move really quickly. Continue reading

From bad to . . . better!

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I don’t know whose fault it was, maybe both of ours. Either way, Addie and I started the day off badly. She was being a typical two year old, refusing to cooperate with anything, whining about everything and having tantrum after tantrum. And I didn’t help the situation: I just couldn’t make myself deal with it calmly and rationally. So as she got more annoying I got more annoyed and we both just kept cycling together.

We missed her swimming class because she absolutely refused to cooperate with getting ready. Then she not only refused to nap (which I should be used to by now since she hasn’t taken a nap in almost a month) but also refused to even do her quiet time. The day was going from bad to worse.

I had a moment where all I wanted to do was scream and completely lose my shit. I desperately asked Twitter for advice on how to deal (and received this lovely advice from Laura at I’d Rather Sit on the Couch: “some days we’re just not going to be able to deal and that’s ok”) and then I thought, hey, I wrote a post about this once.

I looked back at my own advice and looked out the window at the perfect, sunny, 78 degree day and decided we needed to get our butts outside. And from then on, things got better.

We started off our adventure with a train ride downtown, which is automatic goodness because Addie loves trains. We went to the Art Institute first, where I calmed my nerves with some fabulous Impressionist art and then we wound our way over to the Modern Wing for some Jackson Pollock and friends.

Modern Art

Addie was not impressed with Twombly. She thought it looked a lot like a piece of paper after she’s been using it for an art project for a few days. Or maybe that’s just what I thought.

Twombly

From the museum we went to Millennium Park. First to the gardens because I was still in need of a little calming. We found a perfect little spot to sit in the sun and dip our toes in a fountain and enjoy the flowers and skyline views. We were surrounded by couples snuggling and professionals enjoying a quiet lunch break. I felt very Zen.

Lurie Gardens

Then we went over to Crown Fountain because Addie deserved a little wild and crazy fun by that point. We got soaking wet and Addie could have stayed forever.

Crown Fountain

Finally I dragged her away and we boarded the train back home.

Train

We rounded off the evening with a little al fresco dining across the street from our place.

Dinner

And the best part of all? Addie was so worn out by her missed nap and her big afternoon that she’s already asleep. Halleluiah!

All of which is to say, I’m fully seconding my original advice that getting out of the house is one of the best ways to deal with a crappy crabby two-year-old!

Pregnancy Photos: 28 Weeks

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Well, I’m fully into the third trimester and some might say I’m almost done. Except that I still have 12 weeks left and that feels like FOR-E-VER. I knew this last time but must have forgotten: I hate being pregnant.

This month’s picture is brought to you by Mother’s Day, as Addie and I are all dressed up and on our way out to Mother’s Day brunch. (Btw, I wish I could take these pictures myself – they’re never quite up to my standards but I guess I can deal.)

28 Weeks Pregnant

In case you haven’t been counting along, 152 pounds means that I’ve gained 24 pounds already. That puts me on track to gain almost 40 pounds. So that’s fantastic. My midwife was a little concerned with my gigantic weight gain over the last six weeks, but lucky for me I just had my gestational diabetes screen and it came back negative. So I guess these are healthy pounds? I’m getting ready for breastfeeding? I need to stop eating so many cookies?

The other fantastic news I got at my last appointment was that the ridiculous pain I’ve been feeling in my pubic bone is probably Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction which means that my public bones are coming apart a little too early and a little too much. So I have to be more careful about getting up and down off the floor, out of bed, out of the car, etc. Basically, I need to keep my legs together. (Get your minds out of the gutter!) And I should be careful about picking things up and carrying anything too heavy. All of which is, you know, super easy to do when you have a two-year-old.

The midwife also bolstered my anecdotal evidence that personality in utero tends to carry forward into (at least) the first few months of life. She said that it’s normal to have one baby who is much more active in utero and that those babies tend to be more alert, harder to settle, etc after birth. Since this boy is so incredibly calm, I’m hoping that means he’ll be “easy” when he comes out. Fingers crossed people!

Other than that I’m just carrying on, trying to get through this whole pregnancy thing. Only 12 more weeks. . . 12 . . . MORE . . . weeks . . . .

Reclaiming Beautiful

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The other morning at school drop-off I realized I simply had to take a picture of my daughter. She had picked out her outfit for the day and it was so snazzy and adorable that I had to memorialize it. I asked her to pose and her face lit up – she’s so full of vitality and excitement. When I finished taking the picture she ran to my arms and I squeezed her tight and whispered, as I so often do, “You’re so beautiful.”

Immediately I felt the guilt. We all read that article a few years ago about why we should stop calling little girls cute and pretty and, yes, beautiful. We should focus on their smarts, their efforts, their interests, their virtues. I believe it: I don’t want her to think that being physically attractive is all that matters or that I’ll somehow love her less if she’s not beautiful.

Even as I felt the guilt wash over me, though, my heart rebelled. “You’re beautiful” is the most perfect way I know to say what I mean and I don’t want to stop saying it.

ed44ff4e9ba011e283d022000aaa0956_7I suppose I do, in a way, mean that she’s physically attractive. I happen to think she’s adorable and that her blue eyes are the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. But I don’t mean it in some superlative way. I don’t think she’s any more beautiful than every single child is. I don’t think she’s destined to break hearts or be a supermodel. I don’t mean that she’s just another pretty face.

I mean SO MUCH more than that. Continue reading

On A Writing Roll

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Last week I posted about a writing workshop I went to where the presenter was a published author. Except her published book was actually the FIFTH one that she’d written.

This motivated me to Just Keep Writing.

It also happened to coincide with a strong hatred on my part of my current finished manuscript (Book #1). I’ve heard that this hatred is common – that it happens when you’ve spent too much time on a book and are simply too close to it. The recommended fix? Step away from the book. For a good long time. As in, several months, at least. When you come back, things will be clearer.

I’ve been working on revisions for the last six months, pretty much constantly. I’ve left the book for a few weeks at a time, but I was always still thinking about it. Trying to work through the problems even when I was supposed to be taking a break. This time, I need a real break. One where I completely leave it, refusing to give it even a moment of my attention.

So I’m really doing it this time: I’m taking a complete break from Book #1. I’m not going to work on it, think about it, or devote any emotional energy to it.

So what will I do with all my free time now? And how will I stop myself from thinking about Book #1? Write another book, of course! Continue reading

Personality in Utero?

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When I was not quite six months pregnant with Adeline we hosted a party and watched the USA play in the World Cup. I was super excited and we joked that Adeline was going to be a great soccer player because she kicked like crazy the whole time.

But the truth was, there wasn’t really anything special about that day. She kicked like crazy ALL the time. Her kicks hurt me, they were urgent, almost frantic. It was as though she had something important to communicate, somewhere that she needed to be, things she needed to do.

That personality only strengthened after birth. From the very first hours she was overly wakeful, alert, and interested in the world. She could hold her head up from the beginning and she would turn to a new voice in the room. Strangers and friends constantly commented on how “awake” and “alert” she was for a newborn. The girl never stopped moving.

Now, at roughly the same point in my pregnancy with this little boy, he seems like a completely different person. He moves, but he rarely ever actually “kicks”. His movements are little nudges, as though he’s changing positions, getting comfortable, stretching out. Maybe a little bump now and then, as though he’s testing the edges of his little world. So, incredibly, different.

And I wonder, is this a real personality difference? Continue reading

7 Tips for Querying a Novel

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On Monday I attended a great little workshop put on by the Chicago Writer’s Conference on how to query a novel. Because I’m all about spreading the love, I wanted to share what I learned. The workshop was hosted by Holly McDowell, a published author based in Chicago.

1. Persistence. This was my biggest takeaway from the evening. Holly has been writing for ten years. In that time, she says that most of the people she knows who stuck with it did eventually end up selling books. But it took some of them a long time. Including her. It took her almost ten years. And the novel that she finally sold? It was her fifth. She went through two useless agents before finding a third that has been great. She received hundreds of rejections. But she just kept going, and eventually it paid off. This is both incredibly inspiring and terrifying.

2. The High Concept Idea. Continue reading

To the mother who shared her daughter’s diary with the entire internet

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There’s a certain segment of the population that seems to believe that our children are our property, to be treated with about as much respect as we give our cars.

The latest example of this unfortunate view? The mother who read her daughter’s diary and then posted pictures on the internet for everyone to see. This, despite the fact that her daughter locked it, kept the key on her wrist, and clearly told her mother not to look in it. But mom was just SO curious that she couldn’t help herself. And then, I guess, so desperate for something to post about that she had to complete her already disgusting invasion of privacy by letting the entire world join in.

Would you read your husband’s diary? Or your best friend’s? If not, then why on earth do you think it’s appropriate to read your child’s?

Reading through the comments on the original article, I see some of the justifications: Continue reading