Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Kicky and Esmee would eat that poor cat alive She wouldn't even come out of the bushes when she saw me coming. Maybe we'll go to the Humane Society this weekend. There are a couple of cats I have my eye on...

Making chili, but I don't think I soaked the beans long enough. Nothing like a bowl of crunchy chili.

I need to read Jude the Obscure. The teenaged neighbor girl in my new book is going to be named Folly. (The mother will be a high school dropout who got the name from the novel, but misspelled Fawley).

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ordinary People

I am reading Ordinary People for the first time. I picked it up, because I understand it was this slushpile-find phenomena of the seventies, and I was curious. I also wanted to see how she handles the aftermath of the death of a child. So then, this weekend, in the Post, there was a review of Lisa carey's new novel, Every Visible Thing which referred to Ordinary People. Now, Lisa Carey is also the author of The Mermaids Singing, a novel which came out not long after I first got an agent for my never-to-be-published novel, Paper Rain. I remember my old agent talking about it, comparing it to my work. I can't tell you how many times I'll have an idea for a story/book, and then I see something similar pop up somewhere. This actually happened with The Lovely Bones as well...which came out not long after I finished another never-to-be-published book called Small Sorrows (a book about a child abduction and murder, go figure). It always makes me wonder if there isn't some sort of creative collective consciousness among writers. Either that or I'm just terminally a day late and a dollar short.

Anyway, I think I've finally decided on a point of view: third person limited, alternating between the main characters. I may change my mind. I did about a third of the way in through the last book.

Tomorrow I am meeting the cat. 8:30 a.m. at feeding time. By afternoon we could be pet owners. This is exciting stuff for someone whose only real pets in the last decade have been two bala sharks named Lenny and George (rest in peace).

Monday, September 25, 2006


I'm feeling strange today. I don't know exactly why. A bookseller sent me several books to sign. I guess he plans to sell the signed copies to collectors or something. It made me so sad...the hardcover library editions and galleys, clearly books he bought on ebay or amazon for pennies. Rarities now. None being made anymore.

On a lighter note, I think we may adopt a cat. It was P's idea...surprisingly since he's not a cat fan...but someone in the neighborhood has a stray they're watching until someone adopts her. Her name is Funny (though Kicky plans to christen her Sasha). Maybe a new little creature is just what we need around here.

I was awake half the night last night thinking about the opening of the new book. This story is so cinematic in my head...I can picture all of the scenes. I am typically a visual person, but these ideas are more visceral than usual.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I went to school early this morning (still dark out, coffee in a travel mug, fifty degrees -- early), and spent the hour before class wandering around the university library, which is beautifully deserted at that ungodly hour. Here's what I checked out:

From Feast to Fasting: The Evolution of Sin
Salinger's Glass Stories as a Composite Novel
Still Time (photos) by Sally Mann

The cover of Still Time is a photo, "Night-Blooming Cereus"

that I desperately wanted to be the cover of Undressing the Moon. SMP had other ideas, however. The photo book I really wanted was Mann's Immediate Family. (I couldn't get the self-checkout machine to scan the damn barcode). Anyway, her daughter, Virginia, looks so much like Esmee, the photos feel strangely familiar.

I don't know where this weird research is leading, but it will lead somewhere. It always does. New novels begin this way: meandering, exploring, and then obsessing.

There's a little boy in Kicky's class who spent the entire year last year learning about dinosaurs. He could steer every single conversation back to Triceratops. So, the other day I thought I was being clever and asked him what color dinosaur eggs are. His answer? "Oh, I don't care about dinosaurs anymore. I'm into Power Rangers." I want to be like that. Bring on the next obsession, please.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

To Do

I really thought that having two mornings a week completely to myself would be exactly what I needed. I imagined myself writing away, being pro-active with my lesson plans, and cooking lavish and healthy meals to be served to my adoring family come dinner time. What has actually happened is that when the door closes and the rest of the family is gone, I find myself filled with anxiety, making elaborate lists of menial things that need to be done and then spending thenext several hours trying to prioritize and execute these items, feeling guilty the whole time that I am neither writing nor planning nor cooking anything other than my own daily breakfast burrito when I realize I've forgotten to eat. For example. Today I envisioned making a reading list, outlining some major scenes for the book, and actually reading some. What I did do:
  • balanced the checking account
  • stressed out
  • paid the car payment
  • stressed out about the clunking sound that's happening somewhere in my driver's side wheel
  • went grocery shopping (the kids went to school with the most ridiculous excuses for lunch ever -- plums, hard-boiled eggs, and juice boxes)
  • planned my lesson for tomorrow
  • sent out a bunch of e-mails trying to procure either payment for the various and random jobs I do, or to actually procure the jobs themselves
  • said "Hi" to P, who came home to grab the car emissions test paperwork
  • stressed out about the car emissions test
  • said "Bye" to P, who probably sensed how stressed out I was and decided that anywhere might be better than here
  • made a breakfast burrito while talking on the phone to someone about payment for one of my various and random jobs, spoke to someone else about a new possible job
  • returned my dad's call
  • and now it's 11:30 and I have a half hour before I leave to pick up the girls

I've been having dreams where my entire world is falling apart. Last week I dreamed that we lost Kicky in an airport. I also dreamed a bunch of hippie kids took over the treehouse and turned into a sort of hip after hours club. Last night's dreams were too bizarre to mention. They've been lingering with me all morning though. I need to cut down on the caffeine. I need to get back to writing. I need the beach.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Same 'Ol Girl, Brand New Website

Sorry about the earlier post. Bad day.

Anyway, I decided to post the new website. Why not? I was going for a sort of treasure chest effect. If nothing else, at least the info is all current. I hadn't updated the old site since 2001. So much for dynamic content.

Here's the link:

If this is your first visit to Mermama (via the link on the new website) -- Welcome to my mad, mad world.


House of Cards

The"A Prayer for Owen Meany" post-show discussion at The Round House Theatre was really fun. First of all, the performance was incredible. It was perfectly cast, and Blake Robison did an amazing job of interpreting Simon Bent's script. I was pretty nervous about getting up on stage, but the audience (for the discussion) was both small and receptive.

Did I mention my new method for plotting? I've been lugging around these spiral bound notecards lately. Everytime I get an idea (for a scene, an image, a character), I jot it down. I'm hoping that by November the book will be full, and I'll simply have to sit down, pull them out, arrange them, and write the next book. It seems pretty simple, but I've found it so liberating. usually I keep all that crap in my head until it's time to write. They're like little magic recipe least in my imagination anyway.

I need to get a full time teaching job. I am working so, so, so hard...teaching a full load without any of the financial (and other) benefits full time status. Oh, woe is me.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Real World

So after four debaucherous and languid days at the beach, I am home and thrust right back into the throes of the real world. San Diego was amazing. We got to meet our friends' new baby: Rowan, who is truly, truly, truly one of the cutest I've seen. It seems impossible to me that Esmee was nearly two pounds lighter than he is. Such a small, small peanut.

Dan and Angie's wedding was beautiful (on the beach, her dad officiating). The reception was fun and the food was fantastic: fajitas, fajitas, fajitas. I am growing softer and softer around the middle with each foray outside of the DC Metro area.

Back at home, I've started teaching again. My classes are early (8:00 and 9:35), and the back to back schedule makes me feel a little like a record skipping.

In an effort to stay sane about the book, I've been furiously jotting down notes for the new one. My plan is to write it during nanwrimo in November. I spent five years on Two Rivers, to no apparent avail. Undressing the Moon took only five weeks. Maybe I just work better in marathon mode.

On Sunday I am going to be the guest at the Roundhouse Theatre's Post-Show Book Club discussion of the stage adaptation of A Prayer for Owen Meany. I'm nervous but excited as well.

Fall is descending...and I am starting to get that lovely autumn feeling of possibility. That back -to-school hopefulness.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Painting Rocks. Posted by Picasa

I'm back!

I am home again, home again, jig, jig, jig from Vermont. The month was terrific, but full of activity. I frankly wish I'd had just a few more days where I wasn't on the road or visiting, but when you only get home once a year you really are forced to cram things in. The girls had a blast...trips to Santa's Village, the County Fair, Ben & Jerry's factory, Lake Champlain, and their first Chinese Restaurant experience. They swam in the pond, ran in the yard, climbed up into the treehouse, and ate s'mores. My best friend and her kids visited a lot, and they were so good to the girls. Summer cousins...

This year, my grandmother decided it was time to part with a portion of my grandfather's library, as well as with his Underwood. So, I came home with seven boxes of books, an antique typewriter, and an Andrew Wyeth print I gave him year's ago that hung in his study. I can't wait to unpack everything in their new home. My parents are also bringing down his Alice/Lewis Carroll collection (about twenty books) for me. This may be the most exciting inheritence of all.

I am feeling overwhelmed by everything I have to do this week. School starts at GW (and for the girls) tomorrow. That always knots my stomach up. Patrick and I are also leaving on Thursday for San Diego. We're going to a wedding and, possibly, greeting our other friends' new baby (if he arrives in the next few days).

Today is also our seventh anniversary. Boggles the mind. Seven years.

No (good) book news yet. Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean...