Category Archives: Writing

May, June, July Update

How pathetic that my monthly update (which was already pathetic) has turned into a quarterly update! but I haven’t given up on you, Bustopher Jones! I may even start blogging here more often someday. Right now I just don’t have the time. So here is the quick (but it never ends up being quick) update:

Shea is cuter by the day. Lately he’s been so sweet, even saying, “Je t’aime” back after I say it. His new favorite phrase is “Talk to me, Mama, talk to me” (which has replaced “LISTEN to me!” He still loves sports and balls better than anything in the world, baseball in particular. I taught him how to say, “Three strikes, you’re out!” and “Home run!” Funny because I hate sports myself. He loves to read, though, too, and play with his Thomas the Train set, and run and jump and draw and glue magazine pictures onto paper.

Oona is getting so big. I can’t believe she’s almost a year old. She is cruising around like crazy (that means walking while holding onto furniture for you non-parents) and can stand for a second or two without holding onto anything. No big hopes for her to walk early, though, since Shea didn’t really start walking until two months after he took his first steps. She claps back when I clap, and she can almost wave bye-bye. She babbles a ton and says, “Dada” a lot, but I don’t think she knows what it means. She and Shea look very different, both a blend of Turon and Ward, but different blends. Oona’s taking swim classes; Shea’s in gymnastics classes. We’re all very busy busy busy.

We spent 10 days in Michigan at the end of June through the beginning of July, and it was a lot of fun. We mostly just hung out with family and friends. No Macinac Island, no Detroit Zoo, just BBQs and swimming and a whole lot of jumping on the trampoline (for Shea). Shea got to meet and play with all his older cousins, see fireworks, and spend some time with Grandpa and his aunts and uncles. He LOVED Michigan and didn’t want to leave (neither did I. We left 98-degree weather to come back to “sunny” California with our 65-degree summer. Boo hoo.)

This past weekend we did the first of three camping trips to Montana del Oro State Park, in Los Osos. The weather was worse than in Berkeley. Cold and foggy all weekend, but we still had fun. I feel happy and invigorated after camping, even though we didn’t do any major hikes. Just hung out with friends, poked around tide pools, and ate some s’mores. Then we all came home and got the stomach flu. Not fun to see munchkins projectile vomiting, but we’re all fine now.

I’ve been busy blogging over at Writerland and not doing a whole lot of other writing. Well, I had a book review in the Chronicle a few weeks ago, and I’m working on a new piece for this year’s Litquake, San Francisco’s annual literary festival, but no big progress on my book. My book. Sigh. I’m revising it yet again and I’m so unmotivated I just can’t look at it right now. I wish that weren’t true. I wish I could just sit down and sail through the edits and be done with it in a month, but it seems to take me an entire year to do each revision (for a variety of reasons, including the aforementioned munchkins). I’m considering just setting it aside for a few months while I work on something else. The book is, and has been, done for a while, but it needs something-I’m not sure what-to push it over the fence into the Published Books world, and I’m hoping this final revision will do the trick. More than anything I just want to move on. Lately I feel like I’m Atlas and it’s the world. But enough about that.

I’ll be back in August, September at the latest, with another update. And with pictures! Soon!


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November Update

I am way way behind on blogging over here, and I won’t be able to update as often now that I’ve started TWO new blogs. One is Writerland, currently at, but still experiencing growing pains. The other doesn’t really exist except on my computer, so I’ll hold off on advertising it for now. I’ve been BUSY lately. I have been:

1. Blogging every weekday at
2. Reading three books: one novel, one vook and one blogging for Dummies book
3. Going to kid birthday parties (and shopping for presents for each) EVERY weekend
4. Running: I ran 3.6 miles three times this week and made it the third time without walking any of it! (It’s pretty hilly.) I want to do a half marathon in March, but won’t be disappointed if that doesn’t happen.
5. Querying agents. Several rejections. Four more have the full manuscript, and I need to get five more queries out this week (but first I have research to do)
6. Working on getting my website redesigned
7. Have been scanning photos for my new blog. It’s going to be modeling-/French-related – a supplement to my book
8. Spending time with Oona and Shea: taking a few pictures, updating the baby books, going to French playgroup and moms’ group and parks. Have been with both to Fairyland, the zoo, the botanical gardens in Tilden, the Bay Area Adventure Museum …
9. Cooking some (some weeks I cook a ton and others hardly at all)
10. Watching Mad Men (over now) and Dexter and The Office – I’m one episode behind on Dexter and The Office
11. Trying to remain sane.

About number 11—this weekend was tough. Last weekend I was out jogging and stumbled across this yard sale that had a “Free” sign on a bulletin board, and I thought, “I could use that bulletin board,” but upon closer inspection, I saw that there was a photo on the bulletin board for a children’s playset. Long story short, Martin spent this weekend dismantling the playset and lugging it to our house while I had to watch both kids by myself. Oona barely slept, and when she did for just 30 minutes and always when Shea was awake, so I never got a break. It was a bit hellish. By the end of the day yesterday I was racing out the door to tutor at the pub, where the first thing I did was down a cup of sake. Today was no better, although outings in the mornings and tutoring sessions at night did give me somewhat of a break. This morning we went to a birthday party at a bounce house place where they had these big inflatable slides and obstacle courses. Finally a bounce house that allows adults inside! It was really fun.

When I was about seven months pregnant, I talked to a woman at the park (I meet/talk to a lot of people at the park! This afternoon I talked to my neighbor’s friend about Berkeley schools, to some French guy about the French school, to some other guy about how to cook quinoa and about this parenting book he was reading …) about what it was like to have two kids who are pretty close together, like hers were. She told me, “Your life is going to be hard for a couple of years, and then it’ll get better.” It’s hard to define “hard.” It sounded scary when she said it, awful even. Part of me felt, “No, she’s wrong. It won’t be awful” and part of me felt, “OMG, what have I done?” So now that two and a half months have passed, I can say, yes, life right now is very hard. It’s not bad, though, not awful. Just hard. Hard meaning I have almost no time to myself except for the hours I am paying $17 to a babysitter. That adds up really quickly. $17 to go running. $17 to take a shower and make and eat lunch. Another $17 to go grocery shopping and run an errand or two. $17 to blog. $17 to check e-mail and read other blogs. The evenings are getting a little better now that Oona is awake more during the day and going to bed earlier at night, but my problem is that it’s often 9:30 or 10 before I get any time to myself and then I don’t want to go to sleep because I want to read or e-mail or blog and, before I know it, it’s midnight and then I’m up twice in the night, sometimes for 30-60 minutes, feeding Oona, and then I’m TIRED the next day. But to get to bed early and get a decent amount of sleep, I get NO time to myself.

What else is hard? Housework. It doesn’t end. I finally got ALMOST all of the laundry from Friday folded and put away today and then threw three more loads into the wash. There is a neverending pile of unfolded laundry on our couch! And dishes to wash, and toys to pick up, and … and … and …

But it’s fun, too. Oona’s a cutiepatootie. She smiles all the time, and does these little stomach crunches when you tickle her and has started cooing and making razz sounds. Shea is nonstop entertainment. He calls me “Meghan” now, which drives me nuts, but he’s hellbent on saying it, so I just have to let it go. He is saying little sentences, like “I have a book” and “Green ball go get it Papa up there. He speaks more in English than in French, but he understands both and can say most words in both (and in Spanish, but mostly around Dolores.) He mixes them up all the time, like he’ll say, “Dos chairs” or “Petit cow.” He loves cooking and has to drag a chair into the kitchen to help every time we start to make dinner. He likes to help clean, too. He still loves balls and this week is into juggling and diving from the coffee table onto the couch. He does random things, like today he put three balls on the sofa and covered them with a towel and said, “balles chaudes” (hot balls, he was warming them up), then he lifted the towel and said, “blow on it” (because they were hot, he had to blow on them to cool them down.) Like I said, nonstop entertainment!

We are spending Thanksgiving at Martin’s mom’s and Christmas Eve, too. I have already bought some Christmas presents. Every year I decide I want it to be a minimalist Christmas without a lot of gifts, and every year I buy one more, one more and one more until there are quite a few. I’m sure this year will be the same. All I want for Christmas is nook, but it’s sold out until Jan. 4. I’ve never been one to get electronic devices when they first come out, but there have been so many times recently that I really wanted to look at a book NOW and wished I could just download it and not order it from the library and wait until it comes in, then go pick it up, or pay $15-$27 for it at the bookstore. I think the age of print books is rapidly coming to a close.

And just for fun, I started writing a sci-fi novel last night. It’s really just a FUN project and not meant to be my “next book” (I have other books I want to write to sell), and it feels good to write for fun again. I know nothing about sci-fi, but this is a book I’ve been thinking about for a while. What’s that expression? If you want something done, ask a really busy person? I get that. You get into such a crazy busy-all-the-time mode that you never have enough time to wind down. It’s just go go go go go all the time. Craziness. And now I have to go to bed because I have to go to court in the morning to get the money this scheister who sold us our hot tub owes us. It’s 10 o’clock, and I’m about to turn into a citrouille. (l learned the difference between a potiron and a citrouille – two French words for pumpkin – this Halloween!)

And that’s the update. Bonne nuit a tous!

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Miss me? Although I’ll continue to blog here, I’m also blogging there, where you can get writing and editing advice, read the latest on the publishing industry, and learn how to market your work.

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Writing Update

I’ve done very little writing since Oona was born, but I’m still sending my book out to agents. It’s been rejected by about five (I’ve lost track), and three more have it right now. I took the time to read through it again and decide if I should revise further (in which case I’d hire an editor to help me) or just keep sending it out, and this is what I realized:

A few small edits were needed throughout, like an added sentence here or there
A section in the first chapter feels too rushed/summarized
The first 100 pages aren’t as good as the rest, and slow the book down a bit (and perhaps lose the interest of agents before they get past them?)

So I marked it up and made some of those revisions, and then started to chop the first 100 pages to really delete some chapters. Then I had doubts about deleting those chapters and decided I’d rather have an editor tell me to delete them than for an agent/editor to never have the chance to see them at all. So I left them alone. And I fiddled with the first chapter, then put it back the way it was. Then I read a “How I Got My Agent” post on the Guide to Literary Agents blog and felt so much better about my book. The woman submitted her manuscript, worked on it for another year, submitted again, edited more, submitted again, was still rejected, and on and on until she got offers from two agents, and chose one. Somehow I had it in my head that if the first five agents rejected me, the book just wasn’t good enough and needed more revision, even though I’ve heard a hundred stories about people getting rejected 50+ times before finding an agent. It made me think that I need to put my energy into finding an agent instead of revising my book (although I do still want to make some more small edits.) I haven’t gotten far in creating a list of people to query, but I did query three more, and two requested to see it. So I just need to continue on down that path. My “goal” is to find an agent by the end of the year, but I have so little control over that outcome. A better goal would be to name a number of agents that I’ll query by the end of October, or mid-November. A start would be to create that list.

I’m anxious to get started on my next book, and I feel like I would have made much more progress by now if I a) weren’t still focused on getting an agent for my first book and b) didn’t have a screaming newborn. I guess once I go back to work in a month, that will be my priority. Right now my priority is getting some sleep and remaining sane while caring for a toddler and a newborn (and Martin is going out of town for three days on Monday! Lord help me!)

Meanwhile, I’ve managed to read a little here and there (not as much a I’d like). Just finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I liked it. I don’t know if it’s my favorite book, but I did like it. I would have enjoyed more time with Kakuro and less time reading the musings of Mme. Michel and Paloma, but it was entertaining. I haven’t decided which book to read next. I have several on my nightstand, and none of them appeal to me right now. One I DO want to read after reading Elegance, is Anna Karenina. If only I had a Nook, I could download it right now! I think I want a Nook for Christmas.

Signing off to do some chores (THEY NEVER END), and to try to read myself to sleep.


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Rejections suck

I got another rejection from agent today. The hardest part (for me) about getting rejections is wondering whether a) That person just wasn’t the right agent and I need to keep querying until I find the right one, even if it takes 50-100 rejections to get there, or b) It still needs more work, and I should revise it again before sending it back out.

I feel like no matter how much I work on it and how many people I show it to, I will always hear that x, y and z need work. And yet there are a gazillion stories about best sellers getting rejected over and over and over before being published, so how do you know when it’s done? How do you know when to stop revising and put your energy into selling it? I read published works all the time that I would have given plenty of critiques if someone had asked me to edit them.

I think waiting another month to hear from two or three more agents, then rereading it myself (after having had some time away from it), may give me a clearer picture of what I need to do. I feel like I can be my own best judge if I have a little distance. And yet … I would feel so much better if an agent or professional editor signed off on it for me, said, “Yes! It’s ready! Send it out!”


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10 Days to Go


Well, 10 days until my due date, but it may well be longer than that since Shea was 10 days late. The baby room is mostly ready – all cute and pink, although I haven’t put anything on the walls yet. I have decals on order that will spell out her name, but I’ll wait until after she’s born to put them up since her name is a secret.

I’ve been having contractions on and off, but nothing major. I found out the Friday before last that the baby was no longer head down, but transverse, so I went in for a version this past Friday and when they did the ultrasound they found that she was head down again, so I didn’t have to do anything – thank God, since versions are supposed to be painful and are only successful 50 percent of the time.

I’m still swimming on Mondays, working Monday afternoons and Wednesdays, tutoring two nights per week, editing one morning per week and taking care of Shea Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday afternoons. Last week we had a lot of fun, and it felt good to spend some quality time playing with Shea. I feel like I’ve been spending too much time dragging him around on errands lately instead of taking him to parks. But Thursday morning we went to the Oakland Zoo (and went on the merry-go-round, too). Thursday afternoon I set up his new kiddie pool and his grandma brought him a beach ball sprinkler and we hung out in the backyard for two hours. It was so nice to do something fun outdoors without driving (or even walking down the street) to a park. I really wish our backyard had some landscaping (the gardens are wild and the deck is about to collapse), but it will happen SOME day! Right now I have a big long list of things I want to do before the baby is born. Friday we went to Live Oak park for our French play group and today we had a BBQ in Tilden with the same group (it was FREEZING in Tilden this afternoon!), and taking care of Shea is so much easier when there are other kids around for him to play with.

As for my to-do list, I’m still sending my book to agents. Three of them have it now, and I queried a fourth today. Three rejections so far – two with very encouraging e-mails telling me that I just need to find the right agent, and the third a form rejection.

I’m writing 15 minutes a day on my new book, which may seem like nothing but is incredibly difficult when a) I have a million other things to do and the days go by incredibly fast (it’s usually 9:30 p.m. and I’m sitting down to watch Mad Men and then think, “I’d better do my 15 min first or I won’t get it done) and b) when I don’t know what the heck to write because the concept of the book is still so fresh/vague in my brain.

Still editing, still doing tutoring prep, still learning Scrivener, still reading blogs about publishing, still planning to get my photo albums done one of these days. Busy busy busy.

Shea is doing great. He’s talking more and more, so much that I can no longer keep up with his list of new words. He’s running a lot, climbing up bars and going down slides, coloring every day, kicking and throwing balls constantly (his favorite pastime), ALWAYS on the move. He seems to like babies and loves the baby girl doll and stroller we bought for him. He put her in the swing today and rocked her back and forth. Let’s hope he’s as gentle with the real one when she arrives!

I haven’t blogged much about this pregnancy because it’s gone by so fast, because it’s been uneventful, because I feel fine and know what to expect this time. I can’t say I’m looking forward to labor and can’t say I was terribly upset when I heard she was transverse and that I may need a C-section. A C-section sounds way less painful than labor without drugs, but I’m happy that everything is okay. I’m looking forward to the birth, but not the hours preceding it.

I’m totally hooked on Mad Men. We’ll probably finish Season One tonight and start Season Two later this week. It’s my only break from work. I’m up past midnight every night, often on my computer, and it’s really nice to take a break every few nights to watch TV. Speaking of which, it’s time I logged off and did that right now.

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The Countdown Begins!

Old-fashioned typewriter

In writing news, I’ve received two very nice rejections from agents (with comments like, “great writing, compelling story, you should pursue this, you just need to find the right agent, feel free to send me other work,” etc. while two others requested to see the full manuscript and will get back to me after vacation in mid-September. So right now my goals are to:

1. Query four more agents
2. Get my website redesigned
3. Learn as much as I can about blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
4. Work on new book (need to start entering notes into Scrivener)

Besides writing-related goals, I still have to:

1. Finish decorating the baby room
2. Read my friend’s manuscript
3. Get a lot of editing work done for my client before the baby comes
4. Continue tutoring
5. Work on photo albums (wanted to get these done, but so far it doesn’t look good)

And I want to:

1. Sleep
2. Watch TV
3. Swim
4. Spend a lot of time with Shea while he’s still the only child
5. Sleep some more

19 days left! Maybe less, maybe more. How much can I get done?

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