Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Two Days In...


The first two days of fall semester went well. It's nice to be back in the halls again. Good to see my collagues. Great being in front of the classroom talking about stuff I'm passionate about.

I have a slightly unusual schedule this semester. My Mondays and Wednesdays are packed:

8am -- 9:50 am: Introduction to Literature

10am - 11:30am: Office hours

11:30 - 12:45: Introduction to Fiction

1pm - 2:50: English 1A (aka Composition)

I'm not used to having such an early break in the day... And I can't recall having a morning of back to back literature classes, so that should be a fun way to launch the day.

My Tuesdays and Thursdays are simple:

i have one morning class of Eng 1A, and after that I'll have meetings every 1st & 2nd Tuesday, as well as every 1st and 3rd Thursday. The rest of the time, I'll leave for home early. So, all in all, this schedule should be pleasant. The only thing that's wearing me down is that I get up before the crack of dawn... But It's only two days in. I'll get used to it soon.

So far, the only thing we've done in the classroom is the usual Interview Activity. In the Lit courses I have them ask questions about what they like to read (and watch, hear, visit, experience). For Eng 1A, students share information aout one another:

Name
College / Career Goals
What do they do for fun in their spare time?
What do they like to read and/or write about?
Where have they traveled?

I also have students invent a question... The usual stuff, maybe, but it helps me connect names to faces, and more importantly, it helps me develop ways to connect with students and make the class more relevant for them.

To my fellow teachers out there, enjoy the journey!





Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Last Saturday of Summer Vacation

Well... today is Saturday... on Monday it's back to school.

It's almost time to get back to days of teaching classes, attending meetings, and *shudder* grading hundreds of essays. But I'm not letting go of summer that easily! We had a great time at a Hollywood party (North Hollywood -- but it still counts).

Check out all these pool toys!


Later tonight, my daughters and some of their friends will be coming over, and I'll be joining them in a game of Dungeons and Dragons... Yes, the Nerdiness is strong in the Bradford Household.


And then... to keep the Geekiness going... I think I'll spend the later part of the evening trying to finish up on my summer read: Ender's Game. 


Just about everyone of my friends and family have read this book, so I finally decided I better hop on board the Ender train and see if it's as amazing as everybody says. (I'm one-fourth of the way through and enjoying it so far.) 

To all of my teacher friends who are about to begin fall, enjoy your last gasp of summer vacation!


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Invite Wade to Your School!


I am now taking reservations for school visits! Throughout 2017 and 2018, I'm fully available on Fridays, and have some availability during Monday through Thursday.



(Or you can always leave a comment to ask or question, or email me directly at profwade@hotmail.com )

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Resolution Check-In: July & August Edition


Oops, I was so busy gallivanting around Washington state, I forgot to do my monthly New Year's Resolution check-in, so I'm going to combine two months worth of productivity (or lack thereof)...

If you're just joining the blog, last Dec 31st I posted my Goals for 2017... and at the beginning of each month I have posted my progress on this blog. So, here goes...

1) Take More Photos (at least 2 per Week)

My skills as a photographer are negligible, but I am happy to report that I took a lot of photos during summer break. You might be wondering, "Why don't you post some of these pictures, Wade?!" Well, I am slow and lazy about these posts, lately, but I'll try to put up some good ones over the course of the next few weeks.

But as a sign of good faith, here are a couple from June... The first is a view from a hammock in my brother-in-law's backyard...


And then here's the reverse of that shot, a selfie with me and Emily!



Achievement: 58.5% Complete


2) Write / Sell a New Picture Book: 


I was incredibly lucky that this one was accomplished early in the year. I can't remember if I announced the title of this project... but since it has been listed in Publisher's Weekly, I can make it official.

The new book is PAPA BEAR'S PAGE FRIGHT... and it's coming to bookstores Spring 2018.

Perhaps coolest of all, it will be illustrated by fellow client of the Red Fox Literary Agency: Mary Ann Fraser.

By the way, Mary Ann has a cool new biography coming out this month! Woo-hoo!


ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.


3) Generate New Idea for Next Big Project (Complete 25%)

It has been an interesting spring and summer. I have had a lot of false starts and dead ends, trying to decide what new novel to begin working on... And then I started kicking around ideas for chapter books... or even an attempt at continuing Duck Town with a sequel graphic novel (even though nothing has yet happened with Book One.) 

Ultimately, I decided that I wanted my Big Summer Project to be a whole bunch of little projects. At the end of June I challenged myself with the task of creating 31 Picture Books in 31 Days... and I am happy to report that on July 31st I completed that endeavor. So, even though it's not a novel, I am going to say that the Short Story Collection was the Next Big Project... and I'm calling it done! 

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED


4) Work on a Creative Project with My Daughters

I am still dabbling with ideas... But we haven't really done anything but dabble... Emily does encourage me to sing with her, but she gets frustrated because she's awesome at harmonizing, but it throws me off key! 

Emily has been working on her ukulele, and has recently filmed a video... I don't think she's posted it yet.

And Mackenzie kept a video journal of our trip to Washington. They are great little videos and perfect for helping us remember some of the highlights of our vacation. 

  

Achievement: Pending

5) Show my appreciation more often / strengthen relationships and communication

This one still isn't easy for me to quantify... but I have a lot of room to improve before the year comes to an end. I did meet a lot of cool people at SCBWI, reconnecting with a lot of writer and illustrator friends... so I'm going to say I've made a little progress in this category. 

Achievement: 15%


6) Lose ten pounds

Amazingly, I didn't gain back much weight during my vacation up north... This is surprising since there was so much food available to us when we were at Lake Chelan for a week! I thought I doubled my weight with all those Red Vines I ate! But I weighed myself on the scale today and I'm at: 165 pounds... So, I'm still good... and now that I'm back home I'll cut back on the junk food and get it a little lower, somewhere between 158 and 163. 

Achievement: Still Unlocked (whew!) 


So, that's the run down... The real challenge will be the last leg of the year, because I'll be knee-deep in grading essays. But so far, so good. 






Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant

She was one of those pretty and charming girls born, as if by an error of fate, into a family of clerks. She had no dowry, no expectations, no means of becoming known, understood, loved or wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; and so she let herself be married to a minor official at the Ministry of Education.
     She dressed plainly because she had never been able to afford anything better, but she was as unhappy as if she had once been wealthy. Women don't belong to a caste or class; their beauty, grace, and natural charm take the place of birth and family. Natural delicacy, instinctive elegance and a quick wit determine their place in society, and make the daughters of commoners the equals of the very finest ladies.
     She suffered endlessly, feeling she was entitled to all the delicacies and luxuries of life. She suffered because of the poorness of her house as she looked at the dirty walls, the worn-out chairs and the ugly curtains. All these things that another woman of her class would not even have noticed, tormented her and made her resentful. The sight of the little Brenton girl who did her housework filled her with terrible regrets and hopeless fantasies. She dreamed of silent antechambers hung with Oriental tapestries, lit from above by torches in bronze holders, while two tall footmen in knee-length breeches napped in huge armchairs, sleepy from the stove's oppressive warmth. She dreamed of vast living rooms furnished in rare old silks, elegant furniture loaded with priceless ornaments, and inviting smaller rooms, perfumed, made for afternoon chats with close friends - famous, sought after men, who all women envy and desire.
     When she sat down to dinner at a round table covered with a three-day-old cloth opposite her husband who, lifting the lid off the soup, shouted excitedly, "Ah! Beef stew! What could be better," she dreamed of fine dinners, of shining silverware, of tapestries which peopled the walls with figures from another time and strange birds in fairy forests; she dreamed of delicious dishes served on wonderful plates, of whispered gallantries listened to with an inscrutable smile as one ate the pink flesh of a trout or the wings of a quail.
     She had no dresses, no jewels, nothing; and these were the only things she loved. She felt she was made for them alone. She wanted so much to charm, to be envied, to be desired and sought after.
     She had a rich friend, a former schoolmate at the convent, whom she no longer wanted to visit because she suffered so much when she came home. For whole days afterwards she would weep with sorrow, regret, despair and misery.

*

One evening her husband came home with an air of triumph, holding a large envelope in his hand.
     "Look," he said, "here's something for you."
     She tore open the paper and drew out a card, on which was printed the words:
     "The Minister of Education and Mme. Georges Rampouneau request the pleasure of M. and Mme. Loisel's company at the Ministry, on the evening of Monday January 18th."
     Instead of being delighted, as her husband had hoped, she threw the invitation on the table resentfully, and muttered:
     "What do you want me to do with that?"
     "But, my dear, I thought you would be pleased. You never go out, and it will be such a lovely occasion! I had awful trouble getting it. Every one wants to go; it is very exclusive, and they're not giving many invitations to clerks. The whole ministry will be there."
     She stared at him angrily, and said, impatiently:
     "And what do you expect me to wear if I go?"
     He hadn't thought of that. He stammered:
     "Why, the dress you go to the theatre in. It seems very nice to me ..."
     He stopped, stunned, distressed to see his wife crying. Two large tears ran slowly from the corners of her eyes towards the corners of her mouth. He stuttered:
     "What's the matter? What's the matter?"
     With great effort she overcame her grief and replied in a calm voice, as she wiped her wet cheeks:
     "Nothing. Only I have no dress and so I can't go to this party. Give your invitation to a friend whose wife has better clothes than I do."
     He was distraught, but tried again:
     "Let's see, Mathilde. How much would a suitable dress cost, one which you could use again on other occasions, something very simple?"
     She thought for a moment, computing the cost, and also wondering what amount she could ask for without an immediate refusal and an alarmed exclamation from the thrifty clerk.
     At last she answered hesitantly:
     "I don't know exactly, but I think I could do it with four hundred francs."
     He turned a little pale, because he had been saving that exact amount to buy a gun and treat himself to a hunting trip the following summer, in the country near Nanterre, with a few friends who went lark-shooting there on Sundays.
     However, he said:
     "Very well, I can give you four hundred francs. But try and get a really beautiful dress."

*

The day of the party drew near, and Madame Loisel seemed sad, restless, anxious. Her dress was ready, however. One evening her husband said to her:
     "What's the matter? You've been acting strange these last three days."
     She replied: "I'm upset that I have no jewels, not a single stone to wear. I will look cheap. I would almost rather not go to the party."
     "You could wear flowers, " he said, "They are very fashionable at this time of year. For ten francs you could get two or three magnificent roses."
     She was not convinced.
     "No; there is nothing more humiliating than looking poor in the middle of a lot of rich women."
     "How stupid you are!" her husband cried. "Go and see your friend Madame Forestier and ask her to lend you some jewels. You know her well enough for that."
     She uttered a cry of joy.
     "Of course. I had not thought of that."
     The next day she went to her friend's house and told her of her distress.
     Madame Forestier went to her mirrored wardrobe, took out a large box, brought it back, opened it, and said to Madame Loisel:
     "Choose, my dear."
     First she saw some bracelets, then a pearl necklace, then a gold Venetian cross set with precious stones, of exquisite craftsmanship. She tried on the jewelry in the mirror, hesitated, could not bear to part with them, to give them back. She kept asking:
     "You have nothing else?"
     "Why, yes. But I don't know what you like."
     Suddenly she discovered, in a black satin box, a superb diamond necklace, and her heart began to beat with uncontrolled desire. Her hands trembled as she took it. She fastened it around her neck, over her high-necked dress, and stood lost in ecstasy as she looked at herself.
     Then she asked anxiously, hesitating:
     "Would you lend me this, just this?"
     "Why, yes, of course."
     She threw her arms around her friend's neck, embraced her rapturously, then fled with her treasure.

*

The day of the party arrived. Madame Loisel was a success. She was prettier than all the other women, elegant, gracious, smiling, and full of joy. All the men stared at her, asked her name, tried to be introduced. All the cabinet officials wanted to waltz with her. The minister noticed her.
     She danced wildly, with passion, drunk on pleasure, forgetting everything in the triumph of her beauty, in the glory of her success, in a sort of cloud of happiness, made up of all this respect, all this admiration, all these awakened desires, of that sense of triumph that is so sweet to a woman's heart.
     She left at about four o'clock in the morning. Her husband had been dozing since midnight in a little deserted anteroom with three other gentlemen whose wives were having a good time.
     He threw over her shoulders the clothes he had brought for her to go outside in, the modest clothes of an ordinary life, whose poverty contrasted sharply with the elegance of the ball dress. She felt this and wanted to run away, so she wouldn't be noticed by the other women who were wrapping themselves in expensive furs.
     Loisel held her back.
     "Wait a moment, you'll catch a cold outside. I'll go and find a cab."
     But she would not listen to him, and ran down the stairs. When they were finally in the street, they could not find a cab, and began to look for one, shouting at the cabmen they saw passing in the distance.
     They walked down toward the Seine in despair, shivering with cold. At last they found on the quay one of those old night cabs that one sees in Paris only after dark, as if they were ashamed to show their shabbiness during the day.
     They were dropped off at their door in the Rue des Martyrs, and sadly walked up the steps to their apartment. It was all over, for her. And he was remembering that he had to be back at his office at ten o'clock.
     In front of the mirror, she took off the clothes around her shoulders, taking a final look at herself in all her glory. But suddenly she uttered a cry. She no longer had the necklace round her neck!
     "What is the matter?" asked her husband, already half undressed.
     She turned towards him, panic-stricken.
     "I have ... I have ... I no longer have Madame Forestier's necklace."
     He stood up, distraught.
     "What! ... how! ... That's impossible!"
     They looked in the folds of her dress, in the folds of her cloak, in her pockets, everywhere. But they could not find it.
     "Are you sure you still had it on when you left the ball?" he asked.
     "Yes. I touched it in the hall at the Ministry."
     "But if you had lost it in the street we would have heard it fall. It must be in the cab."
     "Yes. That's probably it. Did you take his number?"
     "No. And you, didn't you notice it?"
     "No."
     They stared at each other, stunned. At last Loisel put his clothes on again.
     "I'm going back," he said, "over the whole route we walked, see if I can find it."
     He left. She remained in her ball dress all evening, without the strength to go to bed, sitting on a chair, with no fire, her mind blank.
     Her husband returned at about seven o'clock. He had found nothing.
     He went to the police, to the newspapers to offer a reward, to the cab companies, everywhere the tiniest glimmer of hope led him.
     She waited all day, in the same state of blank despair from before this frightful disaster.
     Loisel returned in the evening, a hollow, pale figure; he had found nothing.
     "You must write to your friend," he said, "tell her you have broken the clasp of her necklace and that you are having it mended. It will give us time to look some more."
     She wrote as he dictated.

*

At the end of one week they had lost all hope.
     And Loisel, who had aged five years, declared:
     "We must consider how to replace the jewel."
     The next day they took the box which had held it, and went to the jeweler whose name they found inside. He consulted his books.
     "It was not I, madame, who sold the necklace; I must simply have supplied the case."
     And so they went from jeweler to jeweler, looking for an necklace like the other one, consulting their memories, both sick with grief and anguish.
     In a shop at the Palais Royal, they found a string of diamonds which seemed to be exactly what they were looking for. It was worth forty thousand francs. They could have it for thirty-six thousand.
     So they begged the jeweler not to sell it for three days. And they made an arrangement that he would take it back for thirty-four thousand francs if the other necklace was found before the end of February.
     Loisel had eighteen thousand francs which his father had left him. He would borrow the rest.
     And he did borrow, asking for a thousand francs from one man, five hundred from another, five louis here, three louis there. He gave notes, made ruinous agreements, dealt with usurers, with every type of money-lender. He compromised the rest of his life, risked signing notes without knowing if he could ever honor them, and, terrified by the anguish still to come, by the black misery about to fall on him, by the prospect of every physical privation and every moral torture he was about to suffer, he went to get the new necklace, and laid down on the jeweler's counter thirty-six thousand francs.
     When Madame Loisel took the necklace back, Madame Forestier said coldly:
     "You should have returned it sooner, I might have needed it."
     To the relief of her friend, she did not open the case. If she had detected the substitution, what would she have thought? What would she have said? Would she have taken her friend for a thief?

*

From then on, Madame Loisel knew the horrible life of the very poor. But she played her part heroically. The dreadful debt must be paid. She would pay it. They dismissed their maid; they changed their lodgings; they rented a garret under the roof.
     She came to know the drudgery of housework, the odious labors of the kitchen. She washed the dishes, staining her rosy nails on greasy pots and the bottoms of pans. She washed the dirty linen, the shirts and the dishcloths, which she hung to dry on a line; she carried the garbage down to the street every morning, and carried up the water, stopping at each landing to catch her breath. And, dressed like a commoner, she went to the fruiterer's, the grocer's, the butcher's, her basket on her arm, bargaining, insulted, fighting over every miserable sou.
     Each month they had to pay some notes, renew others, get more time.
     Her husband worked every evening, doing accounts for a tradesman, and often, late into the night, he sat copying a manuscript at five sous a page.
     And this life lasted ten years.
     At the end of ten years they had paid off everything, everything, at usurer's rates and with the accumulations of compound interest.
     Madame Loisel looked old now. She had become strong, hard and rough like all women of impoverished households. With hair half combed, with skirts awry, and reddened hands, she talked loudly as she washed the floor with great swishes of water. But sometimes, when her husband was at the office, she sat down near the window and thought of that evening at the ball so long ago, when she had been so beautiful and so admired.
     What would have happened if she had not lost that necklace? Who knows, who knows? How strange life is, how fickle! How little is needed for one to be ruined or saved!
*
One Sunday, as she was walking in the Champs Élysées to refresh herself after the week's work, suddenly she saw a woman walking with a child. It was Madame Forestier, still young, still beautiful, still charming.     Madame Loisel felt emotional. Should she speak to her? Yes, of course. And now that she had paid, she would tell her all. Why not?
     She went up to her.
     "Good morning, Jeanne."
     The other, astonished to be addressed so familiarly by this common woman, did not recognize her. She stammered:
     "But - madame - I don't know. You must have made a mistake."
     "No, I am Mathilde Loisel."
     Her friend uttered a cry.
     "Oh! ... my poor Mathilde, how you've changed! ..."
     "Yes, I have had some hard times since I last saw you, and many miseries ... and all because of you! ..."
     "Me? How can that be?"
     "You remember that diamond necklace that you lent me to wear to the Ministry party?"
     "Yes. Well?"
     "Well, I lost it."
     "What do you mean? You brought it back."
     "I brought you back another exactly like it. And it has taken us ten years to pay for it. It wasn't easy for us, we had very little. But at last it is over, and I am very glad."
     Madame Forestier was stunned.
     "You say that you bought a diamond necklace to replace mine?"
     "Yes; you didn't notice then? They were very similar."
     And she smiled with proud and innocent pleasure.
     Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took both her hands.
     "Oh, my poor Mathilde! Mine was an imitation! It was worth five hundred francs at most! ..."

Monday, July 31, 2017

Headed Back to the Heat


Time to leave the cool summer breezes of Washington state and enter the Sugust inferno we call southern California.

This July has been relaxing, fulfilling, and productive. what a rare and wonderful combination. Hopefully that means my mental batteries are recharged and ready to start fall semester.

I owe this blog a monthly update... But since we're currently on the road, I'll have to do that in a couple days.

In the meantime, I am excited to announce that my agent has sent out my latest greatest picture book manuscript. Hopefully it will make some editor out there very happy. It will take a week or two before I start to hear any feedback (or in some cases a month or two... Or three...)

In other writing news, I am hoping to finish strong with the 31 stories in 31 days... I believe I started at the end of June, so techincally the thirty one days have expired; however, since this was such a lofty goal to begin with, I gave myself permission to keep writing until July 31st has come and gone. That means I now have about five hours to write one last story!

But first I am going swimming.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Back from Chelan


Been a while, ol Blog. We've spent the last week with family at a house on Lake Chelan. I'll eventually post photos here... But since I'm currently writing ts on a first generation iPad, I don't have many options for technical dazzlement.

I'm at he point in my summer break when I realize: this is a LONG time to be away from work. The days had been flying by in a blur, but there was something so calming about spending days on the lake in a comfy and picturesque locale, away from the city lights and, more significantly, devoid of wi-fi. We all did lots of reading, family-bonding, and inner-tubing. And by the time the fulfilling six days were over, I thght to myself, "I still about twenty fur days of vacation left!" That alone is more time off than most careers allow. So, again, I keep coming back to feeling so incredibly fortunate. Counting my blessings is sometimes the best way for me to deal with stress... I don't have much stress connected to my own life, directly, but college is coming up for a certain older daughter, and there's a heap of red tape right now. So, I'd gladly trade inn some of my luck right now to make things easier for her.

The picture book-a-day project is still going well. I am currently one story behind, but I think I'll catch up tomorrow since Cheri and the girls are heading into town, leaving me with the dogs and my writing tablet. My last two stories are too dark and too lame to become anything (since I was in a bad mood due to the aforementioned red tape). However, out of the 22 projects  have developed, I think at least half of them have great potential. 

Speaking of which, I best get back to work. 

TTFN. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Vacation Within a Vacation


Summers remind me of how lucky I am. (And perhaps how spoiled.) The fact that I have a career that let's me talk about writing all day long, and then allows me to take three months, it never stops blowing my mind. It's times like these when I cannot send enough gratitude out into the universe. But I'll try... Universe, thank you!

The 31 Stories in 31 Days is going surprisingky well. As of this morning, I am one story behind, but I am hoping to catch up on that today by completing two new rough drafts. I have the whole morning and afternoon to myself because everyone has left the house to do various activities, hiking and such. But not me. I am staying home with the dogs and my journal.

So, the "Vacation Within a Vacation" that the title refers to happened this past weekend. On Thursday, Cheri and I flew out of Seattle and landed in Los Angeles. That's right, we traveled back to our stomping grounds so that I could attend the summer conferences with the Society of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators. I believe this was my seventh time attending in the last ten years. And for the first time ever, I stayed at the hotel instead of commuting back and forth to Santa Clarita.

The whole weekend was fantastic, and it was made all the more pleasant by having Cheri with me so that we could go out to lunch or go swimming together. Fun was had by all.

I will hopefully be soending some time blogging about the cnference and the people I met, but in case I fail to do so, let me say to any blossoming writer of children's books that if you haven't become a part of SCBWI you really should. They shape writers in very good ways.

Speaking of writing, I better get back to work. Type to you soon!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Batting Five for Five


Am I using baseball terminology correctly? Five for five? Meaning that I haven't struck out yet. I am five full days into my writig challenge and I have successfully written five stories.

Not all of them are home runs, however.

The very first one, TOUCAN TANGO, is a stinker. I am not sending that anywhere. But I developed and executed the idea, and that is the main goal of this project, to get work done!

The second and third one turned out surprisingly well, and I will definitely be sending them to my agent at some point. In fact, I think they are so good, I am not saying anything about them. Keeping it secret, which means I think they might sell someday.

The fourth day's project was actually a revision of Kinderdragon, but since it was a complete overhaul I am counting it as writing a new story. There is much more characterization and conflict in this version. Trouble is, I don't know if it's any better. It might not have fixed the flaws that resulted in editors passing on the manuscript. However, I did give it my best.

Yesterday (Day Five), I was clueless for a long time. I kept kicking around ideas about a Pig at a Picnic, but that was probably because I have been to two barbeques in the last two days, so I feel like a Pig at a Picnic. However, a quick search on Amazon books shows that the idea has already been used, including the alternate title I came up with: Pignic. Fortunately, I had another inkling.

We were taking our friend from Canada back to the ferry terminal, and she mentioned how she likes Victoria, but also loved it when she lived in Nanaimo. And that reminded me of this awesome public pool that's in Nanaimo, Canada... Which made me think about how excted you are when you are a kid at the pool, and you want to run and jump into the water, but there's a life guard telling you to slow down and follow the POOL RULES... So that's what Story #5 is about. I worked on it from 6pm until 11pm, and I have no idea if my agent or anyone else in the world will like this story, but it was cracking me up!

Happy summer, happy writing, people!

Friday, June 30, 2017

31 Days, 31 Stories


Happy End of June, everybody... And happy Canada Day Eve to all of my friends up north.

I have decided what I want to focus on while vacationing in Washington state. As I mentioned before, I usually take on a full-length project, like Duck Town and Camp Omigosh. But this time I am going to do a whole bunch of short projects.

So, my lofty goal is to create a picture book manuscript for every day in July.

If you asked me a couple weeks ago if this was possible I would have said NO WAY... Picture Books aren't long... They shouldn't be more than 1500 words in most cases... And usually editors want them between 500 and 1000 words. However, they can be really tricky to write. Normally, I draft a picture book over the course of a week. But even that's not quite true because it often takes a long time just to come up with a decent idea. So, this "A Picture Book A Day" idea is a little bit kooky...

But so far I feel good about it... Probably in the same way Don Quixote feels good about jousting windmills.

I have gotten a head start... In the past two days I've written back to back picture books, and I'm two-thirds of the way through #3.

I'll keep you posted as the project continues... But I realize it might not be the most exciting blog topic... I'll try to just share the highlights.

I have been taking lits of photos, and if the wifi holds up, I should be able to post some of them.

Hey, is anybody out there planning to go to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Los Angeles conference?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - Summer Edition


Hey Creative Writers... Are you former students still out there? I hope the summer is going well for you, and that your muse has visited you once or twice.

It seems, so far at least, only a few of you are keeping up your blog. But I'm not here to guilt you if blogging isn't your thing. But I do want to tell those of you who have kept posting (especially Jodee) that I enjoy being able read your work now and then.

So, here's my progress report...

What Have Been Working On?

Picture books, picture books, and more picture books, Lots of false starts and half baked ideas, but three days ago  finally finished a fully developed draft of  MEAN SQUIRRELS, and then today I developed a brand new idea and wrote it from start to finsih in about eight hours.

Word Count: 2000 words

How Do  Feel About the Process?

I think I'm getting into the grove of summer break. I'm not writing my best work (not yet at least), but I am starting to have more fun, and the creative juices are flowing. Now that I am vacationing up in Washingtin state,  where I'll have more time to relax and write, I am going to embark on a new project.

I am going to attempt to write one PICTURE BOOK for every day of the month of July. I already got a head start by completing today's manuscript, I am also thinking about doing something on Youtube, since I attended VidCon with the girls. (But I am not crazy about seeing myself or hearing myself on screen, so I don't know if I will bother.)

What Am I Reading?

I started reading Ender's Game, but I forgot to take it on the trip!

I also need to get ready for fall by reading Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and Ralph Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dinner with Matt and Emma

The other day, my nephew came to visit us, all the way from China... and he brought his girlfriend, Emma! Emma was born and raised in China (though it should be said her English is excellent). Matt has been living overseas since he graduated college. They are both world travelers, at such a young age. Here's a photo of them back in China, hanging out with friends:



This was her very first visit to America, and to celebrate her arrival we took her to a bunch of American places to eat... You know, like Chipotle and In-N-Out Burger. Those sorts of fine dining experiences you can't find any place else.

To return the favor, Matt and Emma treated us to a taste of their culture... and since I have long ago lost the ability to pretend to like food that I think tastes bad. (Which is usually anything that's not meat, potatoes, or pizza-related items.) Therefore, I was quite worried about this upcoming meal.

I knew I was in trouble when they started wandering down the "International" aisle of the grocery store.


They started shopping for ingredients that have way too much flavor for my taste-buds. I'm lookin' at you, Soy Sauce.


And speaking of soy, I became very worried when they began grabbing stuff from the Tofu section. 



I hate Tofu. I hate it so much that I've never even tried it. Actually, that's not true. One time at Costco, Cheri gave me something that she claimed was a chicken nugget. I ate it and she asked me how it tasted. I said it tasted okay. Then she revealed that it wasn't meat, it was Tofu. So now all Tofu tastes like betrayal. 


Then, the cooking began... and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I liked the smells that were filling the house. 

(of course, anything is better than the odor that comes from the cage of our stinky bunny, Mr. Knightley.)

(Not on menu)

I asked if there were any secret ingredients involved and Matt gave me a karate chop. 


After I regained consciousness, we had a delicious meal. 


So, what do we have here? On the top left is Matt's Americanized version of Chinese fried chicken (A+). In the top center we have Pork (A+) and Green Peppers (didn't try it). In the top corner you can spot the Tofu and Tomatoes (didn't touch). And then, the final dish -- that red and yellow stuff -- is sweet scrambled eggs. That's right, sweet! I tried a bite, and it was too exotic for me, but everyone else seemed to love it. 

All in all, I was delightfully surprised by how much I love their cooking. Thanks, Emma and Matt!










Friday, June 23, 2017

Writing While at VidCon


Last Christmas, Cheri and I got the girls tickets to an Online Video Conference called VidCon.

We're here now. (Well, the girls and I are here -- Cheri is hanging out at home with the dogs.) It's the second day, and we are rather exhausted. My youngest daughter is definitely in her element. We're watching Jenna Marbles and Julien right now. My eldest has been having a good time too. She met the VlogBrothers and Josh Sunquist.

I have enjoyed it too... Although for much of it, I am about 30 years older than the target audience. So whenever the girls run off to meet a YouTube star, I've been trying to write.

I finally finished a full draft my picture book: Mean Squirrels. It's not that good.. But it is a finished draft, and that gives me a sense of closure, even if nothing else happens with it.

My daughters and I are thinkingbof making more video content, so be on the look out for more videos, Maybe next VidCon the girls with be the Next Big Thing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Trip to the World's Largest Bathtub


Cheri Rocks!


Today is my new picture book's BIRTHDAY! So, that means I'll be doing my best this month to market the little fella, so that lots of families can experience the joy of Micha Archer's beautiful illustrations (while they tolerate my humble prose).

See how happy I was when the book first arrived on my doorstep?


In addition to shameless self-promotion, I would also like to spend some of my time showing my gratitude to the many people who made this book come to life.

And the first person I'd like to begin this gratitude express is my wife, Cheri Bradford.

As fate would have it, it was HER birthday yesterday. She has given me a constant flow of encouragement not to mention courage, and she's been doing it for almost thirty years of my life. So, since she has given me so many positive words... I wanted to give her some words as well... words set in stone.


For a while now, Cheri has been honoring the New Year by choosing a word... or does the word choose her? The word becomes a theme for the next 365 days. So I've kept track of her words: 

  • Dream
  • Health
  • Journey
  • Reach
  • Light
And thanks to the magic of the internet I ordered them in rock form, so that Cheri can put them somewhere in her garden.

Well, gotta cut this blog short. We're going to the beach... the classic way to take a bath! 





Friday, June 16, 2017

The Magic of Letting Go


Most of my writing career has been a GRIND. I sit down and force drafts out of me. That's when I'm successful. On my off days, like most of this month, I tinker with things until they peter out and then they remain unfinished, unloved.

But sometimes, I give myself permission to let go of my expectations... I don't always listen to myself when I do this. But there are times, when I let go of the reins... And some great things happen.

Three days ago, I wrote a funny little poem based on an idea I had kicked around for years. It might be doggerel, but who knows, it could turn into something that my agent likes enough to send out as a picture book. Even if nothing happens to it, I finished it! (Unlike so many other projects this summer.)

I've also made good progress with the island-themed play I'm co-writing. We have a very rough draft of Act One, Still lots of work ahead, but we had a read-thru with the comedy troupe, and they seemed to enjoy it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Irons in the Fire

(I wrote this on June, 9th...)

 What have I been doing lately? Let me try to work backwards... yesterday (June 8th) was Thursday. I picked up Mom, and mother-in-law as well as brother-in-law at the Burbank airport. 

Then, sister and niece (all the way from Alaska) came over to the house. They went shopping for party food. Then, Cori fried up some halibut. It was delicious! Oh, and earlier in the morning, Mackenzie, Emily, Cheri, and I went to the Senior Breakfast at SCVi. The best part of the morning was the Clap Out, when the grads walk between two lines of kids. 

The student body, from the juniors all the way down to the 1st grade. It was very sweet. Oh, in the evening, we all went to Mountasia for ice cream and a Go-Cart Race. Ashley won be a mile. 

The day before (June 7th) was Wednesday. We worked at home, doing some final cleanings, including mopping the kitchen floor. Emily performed in her Drag Queen / King show. They had a small but appreciative turn out, and we sat at the very front row. It was a lot of fun. Emily lip synced to Sweet Transvestite from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. 

I think that about catches things up as far as the calendar goes. Right now, I am sitting in shaded parking space at the Higher Learning Church while Mackenzie is attending the graduation rehearsal. The is the second rehearsal. How much practice do they need? Tonight we'll be attending the ceremony and then we'll take the family out to California Pizza Kitchen. 

I've got a lot of irons in the fire... Lots of half baked, unfinished things... Hopefully I will get bored enough that I'll actually settle in and finish some of these projects. Lately my strategy has been to start something, and if it gies smoothly I don't stop until it's done... But if I hit some kind of a road block, usually because there is something problematic about the project, I stop and cast it aside until I'm ready to solve whatever problem there was... 

So, now I've got a lot of unfinished, half-baked projects... 


Glowdark -- fantasy middle grade

Kinderdragon -- the original submission failed... Rewrite?

Mean Squirrels... Whether I tinker with the chapter book version, or the picture book version, the moral dilemma of bullying in school keeps happening. How can I write about squirrels who are mean without turning it into a moral drama??? 

All Inclusive -- the new play I'm writing with Chris

Simple Machines -- picture book

How Not to Time Travel -- a middle grade / chapter book 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Cleaning, Puttering, & Tinkering


My eldest daughter will be graduating in less than a week. Relatives will be coming into town, so that means we must clean up our filth-hole of a house. On Saturday we concentrated on the inside, lots of dusting, sweeping, and window washing. On Sunday, we focused on the outdoors. Most of our yard is dead... Like zombie dead three times over. But we do have trees, bushes, and lots of potted flowers that are still alive. We went to Home Depot and got some more to add to the garden. Hopefully, the will outlive the summer heat.

I have done very little writing in the last two day. I did tinker with a new picture book idea, but I didn't get far. Today, the wasn't much house work on the agenda, but there was a lot of transportation tasks. I never imagined that when I became a father of two teenagers that *poof* I would magically turn into a cab driver... Who works for free, no less.

I did accomplish something worthwhile, creatively speaking. My agent and I went iver some edits gpfor my latest project. It should be ready to head out into the world this week. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Curse You, Frank Underwood!


Why do I watch House of Cards? It's nothing but terrible people doing terrible things to others. Kevin Spacey's President Frank Underwood is a modern day Richard the Third, and as with Shakespeare's historical villain, the Anti-Hero of House of Cards talks directly to us, the audience. We become co-conspirators.

For the first time in the series, Robyn Wright's equally megamaniacal Vice President speaks directly to the audience. She says something along the lines of, "It's not that I don't know you're there... It's that I don't trust your intentions." And that really made me question, Why do I watch this stuff? I think part of the answer is because I want to see the bad guys punished. I want to the anti-hero fall apart, in the tradition of Richard III and Macbeth. But is that the only reason for binge watching a show like this?

I once attended a homeschooling seminar in which the speaker bemoaned many of the stories within pop-culture that focused on anti-heroes. He called them "bent" stories. If I remember the definition correctly, a "bent" story is when the values of the characters are warped and twisted -- the virtues of the story are ot in line with the virtues of a benevolent civilzation. A bent story would have characters doing bad things, and good things result from those bad actions. Basically, vice is celebrated.

Now, I'm not prudish enough to suggest that people shouldn't be writing "bent" stories. In fact, something like House of Cards offers us a window into current and past administrations -- by telling a bent story, it offers criticism of the real world. Yet, there is something more worth noting. I think that many people cheer for these anti-heroes, and see themselves within them... Even if they would never do anything similar in action... in their thoughts, viewers can vicariously experience what it is like to plunder and pillage, and commit all kinds of atrocious acts.

The original Richard III has a five act structure. The king is vanquished by Act Five. The original House of Cards, a BBC production, seems to follow a more modern the act structure. And although I don't like giving spoilers, I will say that a certain tyrant meets his maker by the end of Act Three.

The American House of Cards is now Five Seasons in... And it might keep going for another five. I have this terrible feeling that Frank Underwood won't be getting his comeuppance, and that fans of this anti-hero will take his message of power by any means necessary to heart.

Pop culture rant over. Now back to work, writing children's stories to combat the bent stories.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Resolution Check-In: June Edition

We're quickly approaching the halfway mark of 2017. Let's see how I'm doing with my New Year's Resolution.

1) Take More Photos (at least two a week)
I took 36 snapshots over the last thirty days. Nothing spectacular, but I did get some family photos at several places:


  • Foster's Freeze
  • Hogwarts / Universal Studios
  • the Renaissance Faire
  • the local Duck Pond
  • and... the Pantages Theatre
ACHIEVEMENT: 41.5% Complete




2) Write / Sell a New Picture Book

I signed the contract this month! The book will hopefully be released mid-2018.

I have also written a new picture book... so far I'm enjoying the drafting process!


ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. 


3) Generate Idea for Next Big Project (Complete 25% of it)

This one is still in a bit of limbo... I stalled on one project about two months ago, but I've started something new that might take off. I'll know by the end of June whether or not it'll lead anywhere. 

ACHIEVEMENT: 20% Complete. 


4) Work on a Creative Project with my Daughters. 

Kenzie and I still make mini-recordings. It might turn into a podcast someday. 

ACHIEVEMENT: Pending...(We're going to VidCon this month!)



5) Show my appreciation more often / strengthen relationships and communication

Ugh-- I still suck at this one! And now I don't have the excuse of school anymore, since I'm two weeks into summer vacation. 

ACHIEVEMENT: 7.5% Complete


6) Lose ten pounds. 

This month I've been weighing in between 161 and 165 pounds... so everything is still good in this department.

ACHIEVEMENT: Unlocked.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Switching to Summer Mode


Well, the days are starting to fly, so I better use this online journal to keep track -- otherwise, before I know it, it'll be fall and these vacation days will be a blur.

It's now been two weeks off... Let's take stock of what I've done...

Writing wise, I wrote a new picture book. (Today I revised it and sent if back to my agent. I'm quite positive about this one -- but don't I always feel that way if I send it to Abi? I guess so.)

I tinkered with Mean Squirrels and eventually set it aside. I wrote about 25 pages of the Flowers/Bradford stage play about an island resort.

I have also started a chapter book / middle grade time travel novel. I'm about 4000 words into, so still in the beginning stages.

Calendar Rundown:

May 17th: Last day of Creative Writing / Last Day of Spring Semester

May 18th and 19th: Grading papers / submitting grades.

May 20th: Renaissance Faire!

May 21st: Cheri came back from her conference... and then went to Washington state for a few days.

May 22nd - 24th: Served as uber-driver for the girls. Started to get sick.

May 25th - May 26th: Focused on dealing with my stupid cold. (Somehow managed to write a little.) Celebration / Memorial of a fellow homeschool parent.

May 27th: Worked on the book / Date with Cheri -- Duck Pond & Pei Wei Lunch / Watched Alien: Convenant

May 28th: Worked on the book / Watched Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

May 29th: Memorial Day / BBQ with friends / Watched Pirates of the Caribbean 5

May 30th: Revised picture book / chauffeured the children / started playing D&D with friends.


So far, as you can see, it's been an incredibly enjoyable summer. Way too much fun!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Sick in the Summer


Well, crap, I have a cold.

My daughter's boyfriend had a cold, which meant that MY daughter would catch it, which ultimately meant that it would be passed along to me. Now I will probably infect the rest of the family, but I am trying to keep my distance away from everyone.

Not much has been happening around the Bradford house. Cheri came back from her Washington tripnon Tuesday night. Wednesday I soent the day being sick, but that didn't stop me from playing Uber-Driver. Mackenzie had her penultimate school meeting; she is almost a high school graduate!

My agent liked my latest picture book project. She gave me some good notes and I'll be revising it overe the weekend. My latest project is a middle grade / chapter book. I am aiming for about 20,000 words, so I am trying to write 1000 words a day so that I'll have a major project finished before we travel to Washington for July.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - May 24th, 2017


That's right, I am still doing Word Count Wednesday... At least for a while, perhaps throughout the summer. It's a good way to keep me accountable.

What Am I Working On?
I spent a long time this month tinkering with variations of MEAN SQUIRRELS. But ultimately I couldn't get into it. You would think it would be an easy piece of silliness, a squirrel version of the hit 2004 comedy by Tina Fey. But I discovered that when the squirrels became mean to others, they basically turned into bullies, and then the merriment (no matter how hard I tried to make it flourish) evaporated.

So I have abandoned that project -- at least until it develops into some other incarnation.

However, I do have some good news. When I was driving home from my final creative writing class, I stumbled upon a hilarious idea for a new picture book. I spent the first two days of summer writing it, and my agent has already given me some notes. So I am planning to revise and resubmit over the weekend.

Also, I began a new middle grade novel (or maybe it's a chapter book, I'm not sure) about time travel. So far, it's been fun to work on. We'll see if the amusement lasts. So far, in 2017, I've noticed that if the porject is fun and easy to work on, I will achieve success. If it gets tough and slow, it ultimately turns to crap and remains unfinished. If that trend contnues, then I might want to cut bait sooner rather than later. (I hope I used that fishing metaphor correctly.)


Word Count: 1800


Monday, May 22, 2017

Planting a Tree


Well, I wasn't as productive yesterday as I was the first three days of summer, but I did write a couple funny scenes this morning and afternoon. I also did some editing and sent off the current version of the manuscript to my writing partner.

Oh, and I dug a hole and planted a tree. That was exhausting. Last December we bought a live Christmas Tree and it's been sitting in a pot outside, goring for the last six months. Cheri and I decided it was time to put him in the yard... Hopefully we didn't wait too long.

Today has been relatively uneventful -- so far. My eldest has a cold. My youngest attended her geometry class (she continues to impress her college professor). Despite her illness, my eldest daughter is currently working on her history homework. These girls are incredible!

My wife is in Washington, visiting family, and celebrating the life of her aunt who passed away last month.

Now that I've hit a Waiting Point with the play, I am trying to decide what project to work on next. Something big or something small?

I'll let you know what I decided as soon as I figure it out myself!








Saturday, May 20, 2017

Back to the Page, and Back to the Stage...


Today is Day Three of Summer Vacation. I still cannot believe it's summer. That school year went by in a snap. And yet, there were times during the autumn when all life seemed to be in Limbo -- when we didn't know what would happen with my wife (due to her Gall Bladder) or my daughter (due to OCD symptoms).

We're going to the Renaissance Fair today, but this morning I've been thinking about the recent past and I've been counting my blessings. There's too many -- and I'm bad at math -- so getting an accurate number is not easy. But there's a LOT of blessings in my life and I am grateful to the Universe.

Speaking of blessings, my writing productivity has returned in full force. As soon as I finished teaching my last class, I had a terrific idea for a new picture book. (The idea literally developed on the commute to work and then finished on the return trip home.) I wrote the manuscript on Day One of Summer. On day two, I finished grading papers and submitted the grades... and I also found time to start working on a new play I am developing with Christopher Flowers.

Hopefully by the end of June we'll finish this new comedy (from the people who brought you CHANGE THE STATION) and then with a little help from friends and financiers we'll launch the new show this fall.

You keep thinking happy thoughts for me; I'll keep thinking happy thoughts for you. Keep your fingers crossed that good things keep happening... (or at least non-tragic things, which in my book is good enough!)


Friday, May 19, 2017

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Class Has Ended... But the Journey Continues...


Creative Writing students, thank you. The semester was personally and professionally joyful.

After teaching Lit and Composition classes for nearly 20 years, this was my first endeavor as a Creative Writing instructor -- and I never imagined I would have so much fun or be so inspired.

I no longer consider you students -- you are now fellow members of the Tribe.

I will never forget you guys. Not even you, Tumbleweb.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Beauty List


Last November, I wrote a blog post called "The Ugly List" in which I vented about ten crappy things that had recently happened to me and/or my family.

I started to follow up with a grateful "Beauty List" but put it on hold because I stopped listing things at number four... I wanted to get to Ten... I might update this yet again, but allow me to put it out there just so it doesn't get lost in the ether...



The Beauty List

I am sending out thanks and appreciation to the Universe (or whoever's in charge up there). I am grateful that a week has passed without ugly and unfortunate events. I know life will throw other curveballs at me and my loved ones -- but for now I am thankful that life has gotten back to some semblance of normality. How funny that getting back into a routine could feel so blissful.

In my last blog post, I listed Ten Ugly Things that were going on in my world. Allow me now to focus on the positive and reflect upon the Beautiful Things in my life.

#1) Cheri... My wife and my best friend. How wonderful is she?  If I started listing examples I would out-word War and Peace. So let me just say that Cheri makes me a better person. And, perhaps best of all, she gave me these two people:

#2) My daughters... I learn from them everyday, and every moment I strive to deserve their love.

#3) My mom... She just visited our home during the last two weeks (and she was here just when I needed her). My father passed away almost 18 years ago... thank god I still have my mom on the planet. She gives me unwavering support and encouragement.

#4) My whole famdamily... One of the best parts of 2016 happened in the middle of all that ugly stuff I had been blogging about. My four sisters, two of my brothers, and niece and nephew gathered together in Las Vegas to celebrate my Mom's 70th birthday. It was one of the best weekends of my life! We not only watched Beatles LOVE, We reconnected all together for the first since my father's ashes were spread.

Words of Wisdom from Children's Authors


I posted some of these last summer... I think it warrants a repost... especially considering tomorrow is the final day of my Creative Writing class.


"As writers, how do we change the world? One reader at a time." & "Your work is never good enough, no matter how much you've been published." & "Most of the time, writing is banging your head against the wall. That isn't writer's block. That's the process." - Neal Shusterman

"What makes something successful is a very personal thing." - Laurent Linn

"Live your life like you're writing your own book."  - John Parra

"You have to be careful who you share your work with and at what stage" -- Barney Saltzberg

"A successful PB is about invention and knowing what you love and turning it on its head." & "We need to ask a picture book: what if? then what? so what" -- Susan Rich

"A premise is a promise that your manuscript will deliver on." - Carole Boston Weatherford

"The better the character, the worse the trouble, the better the story." - Bruce Coville

"Gorgeous writing doesn't have to be lyrical but must serve the story. Satire and humor can be gorgeous."  -- Tina Wexler

"The envy monster is incredibly destructive to the creative process—and it's difficult to tame. But a high tide lifts all boats." -- Marie Lu

"I consider writing time sacred. I've had to learn to say no to things." -- Marie Lu

""Secrets will draw a reader through a book like nothing else." - Bruce again... 
                           

"Don't be afraid to write crap." -- Marie Lu (but this is also what I tell my students when  they are working on their first draft!)
 
"Get out of your own way. This thing that walked out of your limitations. It's all yours but entirely not yours" - Jon Klassen
 
"Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done..." -Anni Albers

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day - 2017


Whether you are a human mama, 
a bird mama, 
or even a Snort mama, 
have a wonderful Mama's Day!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - May 10th, 2017


Well folks, this is the last required Word Count Wednesday, for my Creative Writing students, that is.

This mean, dear students, that after today, you need never post another blog entry. However, I am hoping you will continue to write (whether on your blogs, journals, or some other medium). Keep connecting with others. Keep sending your stories out into the world. Keep on with the collaboration and the encouragement. And keep in touch.


What Am I Working On?
My chapter book... which I might be condensing into a picture book. (That's right, I'm going back to my comfort zone.)

Word Count: 1500


How Do I Feel About the Process?

I had a great day on Sunday. I worked for about five hours straight -- no distractions. In a lot of ways, I spent more time figuring out what not to write, rather than getting a lot of words on the page. That's all part of the process.


Big News:

Since the contracts are signed (and I've even received my advance!) I suppose I can officially announce my latest news:

My agent sold my fifth picture book! It's called Papa Bear's Page Fright. More details soon!


Useful Link:

Ah, I almost forgot, we are talking about query letters today... so this is a useful link with lots of examples:

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Resolution Check-In: May Edition

Woah -- April is gone and we are already four days into the month of May. My creative writing has stalled during these last few weeks -- but I am hoping to crank things up again so that I have a productive summer vacation.

Here's a quick update of my New Year's Resolutions:

1) Take More Photos (at least two pictures a week)

Much to my surprise, I managed to keep up with this goal. I took a total of 60 photos in April. Here are some of my favorites.


The first one is from our visit to the Embry Riddle campus in Daytona Beach, Florida. Here's the band performing in front of the Science Building. (Check out that cool observatory tower!)


I took a lot of snapshots -- most of them were either boring or just odd. But I rather like this image of an amazing collection of these little model planes in a glass case. 

* * * 


The next day... Mackenzie and I visited the campus of Creighton University (located in beautiful Omaha, Nebraska). I met a squirrel. 


While Mack experience dorm life, I wandered around the town and discovered a cool board game cafe called "Spiel-Bound."


Corgi-on-Campus.

* * * 



On holiday, I met the most terrifying Easter Bunny in Palm Springs... or maybe in actuality it was the least terrifying furry in Palm Springs. It's hard to say. But what is for certain, this is the blurriest selfie known to Man.

* * * 


 Here's my favorite photo of the month: Lizzie and Em. 

ACHIEVEMENT: 33% Complete


2) Write / Sell a New Picture Book

As mentioned last month, my agent sold a new picture book!  This month I received the contract in the mail. I signed it off, sent it back, so everything is going well in this category. 

I'll give you more details on this project as soon as I can. 


ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. 


3) Generate Idea for Next Big Project (Complete 25% of it)

Because I paused on the novel and sifted to a chapter book (which I don't think counts as a big project) I haven't made progress this month. Hopefully that will change before June arrives. 

ACHIEVEMENT: 20% Complete. 


4) Work on a Creative Project with my Daughters. 

My lame excuse: we've been caught up in all things college. 

ACHIEVEMENT: Pending...



5) Show my appreciation more often / strengthen relationships and communication

I thought that this would be the easiest one of the bunch. Instead, this has turned into the project which I keep forgetting about -- and when I don't forget about it I just get lazy. I connected with a couple people this month... but not nearly enough to get me back on track to taking this goal a lot more seriously. 

ACHIEVEMENT: 7.5% Complete


6) Lose ten pounds. 

This one is still maintained -- thank goodness. Last January I was at 175 pounds... I went down as low as 158 pounds, and I have since leveled off at 164 pounds. (At least that's what I was this morning... I did eat about a half dozen Candy Cane Joe-Joe's... That's right! I still have boxes of Trader Joe's cookies, left over from Christmas. Jealous? 


ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.