Twice this week I was asked if we bought a new van. “No,” I said. “We just got the doors fixed! And they washed it!”
Overheard in the back seat of the carpool:
Neighbor: “My sister only wanted to go to chess club because her BFF was going.”
Nicholas: “What’s ‘BFF’?”
Me: “Best friend forever.”
Alex: “What if it was ‘bad friend forever’?”
Neighbor: “What if it was really bad best friend forever?”
Alex: “That would be ‘roobuff’.”
The weather forecast for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week:
Why yes, we did in fact have one rip-roaring thunderstorm, making that transition. We were outside playing with the neighbors after dinner, barefoot and in short sleeves, when the wind went from zero to twenty-five. Five minutes later big, fat, extremely cold raindrops began falling, and everyone began screaming and running to get the kite string wound and the bicycles under cover.
I heard someone say on the radio this week that Lent is the battle between summer and winter for dominance.
Michael had his second speech therapy appointment this week. The therapist sounded flabbergasted. “He really can’t say ‘ee,'” she told me. “We spent the hour in front of the mirror together. He’s trying so hard, but he really can’t make those vowel sounds. He can say ‘b’ with the ‘ah’ sound, but he can’t say any other consonant-vowel combination.”
Yeah, I know that. That’s why we’re there.
I did ask her if we were being a little unnecessarily concerned. After all, in the good weather this week I tallied up a pretty impressive list of physical skills for a 27-month-old:
- He can work a four-piece jigsaw puzzle (with some help, but not a lot)
- He can almost keep up with his big brothers running.
- He can tight-rope walk (one foot in front of the other) around the playground boundaries–not perfectly, but a skill nonetheless
- He can ride safely in a big-kid swing
- He can climb arched playground ladders without help
- And a story to wrap it up: when it was time to leave the park Tuesday, Michael was coming up the stairs for another round on the slide. “Michael, turn around,” I said. Without breaking stride, he turned around and began walking BACKWARD UP THE STAIRS.
Maybe, I thought, he’s just continuing to work on physical skills instead of speech? But the therapist said no, he’s definitely quite delayed and he needs the help.
Last week I spent the week participating in an online workshop sponsored by the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and presented by Donald Maass. If you are not a writer that name is probably not familiar, but if you are a writer with any fiction aspirations, you would. It was amazing. He talked about crafting emotional power in manuscripts, and why so many moments fall flat.
All the way through school I raged and railed my way through English classes. “I never learn anything in English!” I said. But when I look at the quality of my writing from those years I know I was wrong. A well-planned lesson takes you incrementally and puts names and guidelines on things you already know, but not at a conscious level. Things get pulled from the felt-but-not-articulated level out to the conscious level and then assimilated back into the subconscious. That’s how this class felt for me: In every lesson and exercise I recognized truths I had noticed before in my writing, but had never really understood why. It was an energizing, deeply challenging and inspiring week.
I learned long ago, for instance, that some really big emotional scenes work better in someone else’s POV (point of view, for the non-writers). Last week I realized I had intuited something Donald Maass was telling us: if a character cries, it’s almost guaranteed the reader won’t. We’re oversaturated with dramatic, emotional moments in our entertainment. It’s better to pull back and let the situation evoke a reaction in the reader. To sum it up in my own words: allowing your character to wallow in the obvious emotions just comes out annoying. Someone asked how you decide when it’s time to abandon a work and let it fly, accept that it’s “done.” (In quotes because a story is never “done” until it’s in print.) He said, “not as soon as you think it is.” I showed that quote to Christian to let him know I will, indeed, be working even more on the novel I thought was finished two versions ago.
So this week I’ve been going through my Novel-That-Won’t-Die and making notes on the Scrivener note cards about turning points and techniques to use to hone the emotional tone of each scene. Part of that involves some bonus homework Mr. Maass gave me, rethinking a secondary character’s emotional arc. It’s caused a significant change in the manuscript but it’s going to be so much better. I’m so pumped! And so, er, lacking in time!
This afternoon I meet with Julianna’s sped teacher and principal and an administrator from the school district to decide whether Julianna will repeat first grade next year. Prayers/thoughts appreciated.