Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflections and Dreams

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

- Langston Hughes

I’m in a good place. Having several days with no family obligations, school, work, and afterschool activities has given me time to relax and write. When I do a big bout of writing after barely writing, it’s like I’ve finally inhaled a big gulp of air after holding my breath too long. How did I live?

I’m a good frame of mind to reflect on the year. Instead of dwelling on the near misses, rejections, disappointments, and pity parties, I want focus on:

What was Good – 11 from 2011:

1. My children, my husband, and many other members of my family whom I’m close to are in good health.

2. When my husband and children have successes, they lift me the same as my own success.

3. I’m older and doughier, but I’m younger today than I will be in the future.

4. I like my new job as a professional aide, and although it’s not exactly what I want, it’s become more rewarding than I could’ve imagined. (I’ll write a post about it soon.)

5. Graduate school, which is expensive and a big commitment, but has been a better experience than I thought it would be. I received a 4.0 in my first class and I’m already a better teacher as a result.

6. I completed a manuscript, polished it up, and began querying. I sent out 4 more queries this week. I keep trying no matter the odds.

7. I’ve written 4 chapters of my WIP. I’m inspired to write regularly again so those next chapters will go faster.

8. I’ve had 3 short stories accepted this year. 2 are in published - 1 is coming out in 2012.

9. I read 128 books in 2011, exceeding my goal for the 100 Book Challenge 100 Book Challenge. Here’s my LIST

10. Many of my writing friends have had successes this year. Whether it’s an accepted short story or agent snag or book contract or contest win, they are all part of our journey. Just typing “the end” or sending a query is a step forward.

11. My friends, especially the writer ones, who keep me going and inspire me. Thank you.

I wish you a happy and healthy 2012. Thank you for being a part of my life, no matter what form it takes. While I don’t make resolutions, I do have dreams. May your dreams come true.

What was good for you in 2011?

What are your dreams for 2012?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Honorable Mention II

Going through the archives was scary business. Back in 2009, I mostly wrote about subbing. *shudder*

I originally posted this on 12/01/09. It had 6 comments. (It’s actually a comment thread between Alesa Warcan and me a year later.) Poor me, writing those early posts with no readers. I’m reposting this piece (with a smaller word count) because I wrote it from the heart.

The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels."

- Kate Chopin, The Awakening

As a rule, I try not to shove my children down people’s throats. Besides, I pride myself on being woman-mother, instead of a mother-woman. But my children are still a large part of my identity, and there are moments when something they say or do stops me in my tracks. I've compiled a few highlights:

1. My daughter periodically and sincerely tells me that I’m beautiful.

2. My son is a gourmet, so if I make an effort with plating, it never goes unappreciated.

3. When my daughter was a baby, if she was hysterical, my humming would be enough to soothe her.

4. When my son was just out of babyhood, he was struggling to attach two Little People farm fence pieces. Determined, he kept at it, until he exclaimed, “I did it,” which demonstrated his perseverity, dexterity, and first three-word sentence.

5. When my daughter was two, she idolized and tried to keep up with her big brother. He was a in big Star Wars phase at the time, so she’d circle the house with him, toting a play gun and squeaking, “Byoom, byoom, Storm Troopers.”

6. My son is a voracious reader, which makes it hard to believe that he ever went through a long and painful period of insecurity about learning to read. When he’s excited about something he's learned, he has to tell everyone about it in vivid detail. I'm not the only one to call him a walking encyclopedia.

7. Until my daughter turned five, any time I checked on her while she was sleeping, she would instinctively turn towards me, and try to burrow into me without waking up.

8. My son has a strong sense of fairness, is kind to his friends, and avoids troublemakers. Because of his “calming influence”, he won Class Peacemaker at the end of fourth-grade.

9. My daughter dives into everything with enthusiasm. She has passion for anything that she does. An aura seems to radiate from her, and her eyes sparkle when she's excited.

10. One evening, my son to watched my daughter for a couple of hours. When I returned, he had cleaned the dinner table (okay, coffee table, where they ate dinner and watched television - I'm a bad mother), washed the dishes, and was in the midst of microwaving apples that he and his sister had cored and spiced. Even though they sometimes fight, she adores him, and anytime he’s in charge of her, he takes the responsibility very seriously.

I love My son is stubborn and bossy (like me), but can be so thoughtful that my heart swells. My daughter is easy-going (except when she’s not), and possesses an intuition to gauge people’s moods, and responds accordingly. My son screams like a banshee when he’s angry, and my daughter has a gift of throwing herself on the ground when she’s furious. Sometimes I’m enraged when they behave this way, and work on teaching them self-control, but other times, I have to smother a smile.

Before I had children, I was sure that differences in gender were nurture, rather than nature. Then my son turned one, and everything that had wheels and could move, became sources of fascination: police, fire trucks, construction vehicles, guns, Star Wars, army, and World War II. When he turned two, I bought him a doll and carriage, which he had zero interest in. When my baby daughter had only begun sitting, she’d gravitate towards baby dolls and pretend to be their mother. As soon as she turned two, her favorite color became pink, which lasted five years. Although she’d play war with her brother, she used her pastel dolls and animals alongside his army guys. In other words, they've learned to compromise in unique ways.

I learn something from my own children every day. Raising them is a privilege. And having the luxury of time to do so is an honor.

For other blogfest entries starting 12/16, click HERE!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Open Letter to Cambridge, MA

Mural in Central Square.

Dear Cambridge,

My husband and I have enjoyed living in your city for 10 years. My son took a little while (8 years) to come around, but he now likes it, too. My daughter was born here, so this is home to her.

We want to thank you for your efforts to keep us here when we thought we couldn’t afford it. The last few years, we’ve been looking for a bigger place. We thought a multi-family dwelling was the solution, but it turns out to have snags we hadn’t realized.

Last summer, we toyed with moving in or near Salem. We decided to give in one more year. To squeeze in a 2 bedroom condo with a porch, but no property. (Why are there nearly no 3-bedroom places in Cambridge? WHY?)

Our needs have been modest: 300-400 more square feet, 3 bedrooms, 1 ½ baths, a little property, and a driveway.

An extra bedroom? A full bath instead of a half? Garage? All of that would be beyond our wildest dreams in Cambridge.

Two weeks ago, we saw a house in our price range. On a main road and not beautiful from the outside, but still… Hopeful, we entered its halls to discover an inside dated from the middle of the last century. After we climbed the stairs, we were woeful when we eyed the ancient stove in the dining room. Set diagonally. The crumbling walls and ceilings all needed replacing. Our heart disintegrated like the plumbing within the walls.

We decided to look in Arlington, MA (one town over) the next day.

There were actually HOUSES in our price range. Not just 1, but also several. And these houses were by big parks and preserves. Some had 4 bedrooms. Some had big yards. Some were updated. Some were near town and transportation. 1 was in a ritzy part of town near golf courses.

It’s not Cambridge.

But we can see us making a life there.

With your big changes in the school system, this might be the right time to go.

We want to thank you for all that you stand for and all you try to do. Your museums are wonderful. Harvard and MIT are involved in our schools. School choice and good funding means stronger schools than in a typical city (though poverty poses many challenges, especially in the classroom). You have a liberal recycling program. I like that when I bring my compost to the recycling center, I can also swap books. You have good public transportation. (And you’re next door to Boston!) I can keep my kids entertained all summer between the libraries and summer park programs. Best of all, you don’t just accept different cultures, families, and religions, but embrace them. Sometimes you fall short of what you’re trying to achieve, but you try.

Famous authors and scientists walk around this town, along with people whose families have lived here for generations, along with immigrant families and students from all over the world.

While Arlington will offer some of this, it won’t offer all of it. But it will probably offer things I can’t imagine, and I will sing their praises once I know them.

Moving a few miles away won’t change who we are. We lived in Cambridge, which shared many of our values. But it doesn’t mean Arlington won’t. When I look at city data, it’s not all that different. Why does it feel a world away?

We’ll be here all the time, anyway. My kids will still keep their after school lessons and friends. My college is here. My husband still works here.

Besides, the coveted parking permit is still good for another year.


Theresa Milstein xo

Our Cambridge place (for now).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Barnes Blogs about Blogs

Look familiar?

Laura Barnes has critiqued my blog.

Please VISIT!

If you don’t care about what’s good and bad about my blog, that’s fine. But I recommend going over so you can ask her and Joe LaRue to do the same for your blog. She covers overall design and readability, post readability, content on blog, and so on. You’ll be glad you did!

And if you haven’t seen my previous post, please VISIT so you can find out about Heather McCorkle raising $ for charity with her new book!

How was your weekend?


Friday, December 2, 2011

Heather's Generosity

This is a special cover. Find out why below.

“There was a sensual feel to the way Aiden's eyes traveled over her, leaving her tingling without even a touch.”

Heather McCorkle, The Secret Of Spruce Knoll

1. Heather McCorkle has a debut novel

2. The book sounds amazing. Read about it HERE.

3. She’s gotten her publisher to agree to use sales of her books to raise $ for CHARITY!

A special edition of Heather McCorkle’s The Secret Of Spruce Knoll is releasing from Compass Press this month and she’s doing a special tour to go along with it. The special part, a percentage of the proceeds from every special edition sold (in every format) between its release date and 12-12-2012, will go toward Heather’s favorite charity that protects endangered species. Her goal is to make at least $10,000 for the charity.

Of course there are prizes during the tour, which is from December 1st through the 17th. Prizes include a symbolic endangered species adoption of the winner’s choice (a $50 donation by Heather to the charity for the endangered species of the winner’s choice, and cute stuffed animal for the winner!), signed copies of her novels and great swag. For full details, and to enter, go HERE .

For the tour Heather has asked each blog host to pick their favorite endangered species and she will tell us a fun or interesting fact about that animal. My daughter chose the panda.

Heather: While a Giant Panda’s diet consists mostly of bamboo, they are actually classified as a carnivore. That isn’t the only thing that separates them from other bears though. Panda’s have thumbs! Sadly, there are only 1600 left in the wild.

Buy links for the eBooks:


Barnes and Noble

Paperback copies of the special edition coming soon!

Please consider buying and/or

giving this book as a gift.

Let Heather's generosity be your generosity.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving Thanks

My son wants to succeed on his own.

I ask questions:

Is your homework done?

Do you need me to look it over?

Do you have any questions?

Did you call your partner about completing that social studies project?

I receive responses:




We can’t do it now because we didn’t bring home the instructions and the textbook, but I’ll talk to him tomorrow.

Seventh-grade. 13-years-old. 4 classes. 4 teachers. Transition.

He wants to attend Harvard. He plans to volunteer because it’s not just about grades, but also being well rounded.

Should I hover, interfere? When I push, he pulls. I was a seventh-grade teacher, so I know how to help. But I need to let him make his mistakes, right? I fret.

He comes home, telling me about students who don’t care, don’t work well in groups, bringing his grade down, while he takes over parts that aren’t his or gives up.

What do I do now?

Math test. Mediocre grade. My husband helps him understand the material.

I ask about that social studies project. Is his response a real answer or an excuse?

New rules: No video games or You Tube until homework is done. Don’t save your work until nighttime. Make sure you write your assignments down.

I spy a Halloween worksheet. Not done. A week after Halloween.

Am I nagging or helping?

Progress report. I unfold the paper with trepidation.

His grades are lower than last year’s.

I’ve failed.

Do I yell? Say how disappointed I am? Have the teachers e-mail me weekly with updates? Make him show me his agenda? Demand he go over each and every assignment with me?

I thought we were past this type of intervention after fifth-grade.

Before I say anything, he says, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I’m so disappointed in myself. I’m going to do better.”

He means it. I can’t say anything to make him feel any worse than he does.

My son, my husband, and me - we talk strategies, priorities.

We buy another agenda. A blank slate.

The three of us head to parent-teacher conferences. I brace for what I’ll hear. I’ve prepared what I’ll say. He’s better than this. I’m better than this. How did we all let this happen?

Teachers offer suggestions. They’re upbeat about him as a student. They remind me that other seventh-graders are struggling with the transition too. This is a progress report – not a final grade.

I know all this. It’s easier for me assure my students’ parents. It’s harder to be a parent and let your child flail.

These teachers say something else…

My son greets them each time he comes into the room. He asks about their weekends. He says goodbye at the end of the class and at the end of the day. Sometimes he thanks them at the end of a lesson.

One teacher said, “I don’t know if I should say this, but I look forward to speaking with him. He makes my day.”

My son reddened to the tip of his ears.

I went to the parent-teacher conference thinking I was going to hear certain things about my son. I left proud of him, but not for the reasons I expected.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rockin' Robyn

Robyn Campbell has interviewed ME!

She is the last stop on my Blog Tour .

Please visit.

Thank you Robyn and everyone else who hosted me on my Fangtales short story blog tour.

I hope everyone in the US has a wonderful Thanksgiving. And I hope those of you in the throes of NaNo are surviving.

Love, Theresa xo

Monday, November 14, 2011

Interview with Kimberley Griffiths Little

I’ve posted about Kimberley Griffiths Little and The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets before, but now I have her in (virtual) person. Read and be inspired:

What made you pick the bayou for the location of two of your books? Did you previously live there?

Answer: I live there in my dreams! :-) Our family drove through Louisiana about 13 years ago and I fell in love. Hard. We went out with a Cajun fisherman and pulled up his crawfish traps and explored the swamps and bayous and fed chicken to the alligators. Now I'm *officially* adopted by several Louisiana families.

If you didn’t ever live on the bayou, how did you research the location?

Answer: I return to Louisiana often and stay with friends or we rent cabins on the bayous, go canoeing, dancing, etc. I read everything I could get my hands on, did University Special Collections research in Lafayette, speak French with the older people, visit every museum, small town and graveyard, and chat up everybody I meet.

Both books have healers/traiteurs. How did you research for those characters?

Answer: I've met 7 different traiteurs and talked with dozens more people who are related to one, or been healed by a traiteur. I first read a tiny snippet about traiteurs in a book about the history of the Cajun people by a State University professor which greatly intrigued me and the hunt was on to find out more about them. I love unusual places and people and history and Louisiana has that in spades. (I also found out through genealogy research that my husband's family originally came from France into Quebec about the same time (1650s) as the Cajun people who went to Nova Scotia. And that our original surname is actually Monpetit - NOT Little! It was changed after the Civil War when the family left Quebec and came into St Paul Minnesota. I tease my hubby with, "I could have been Kimberley Monpetit!" Maybe I'll use it if I ever need a pen name in the future!

Both novels have fractured mother-daughter relationships (which I can relate to). Did you borrow from real life to make the dynamics between the characters authentic?

I have two sisters and some of the dynamics are probably sub-consciously taken from our relationships when we were growing up, although we're very close now. I tried to make it feel real and authentic as far as emotions and family dynamics. I also have three brothers so we had a wild and crazy household. As far as mother/daughter relationships, I think I drew on those same emotions as I was growing up and the sort of love/hate relationship girls and moms often have as our relationships grow and change over the years. At its very basics though: No girl wants her mother reading her diary!

How many books have you published?

Answer: The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets are my 4th and 5th novels, but my first books published by Scholastic - and my first books after an 8 year *famine* when I published three novels with Avon and Knopf. I changed agents, kept writing despite all those years of no sales and rejection letters, but I strived to become a better writer and it's paying off. Guess I'm a slow learner!

What has been the easiest novel to write and why?

Answer: NO book is easy! Most of mine took many years of rewriting. And I have about 10 practice novels that are sitting in my files. After so much writing now, I am getting faster though, and my first drafts are better - but I think I've put in about 10,000 writing hours over the last twenty years!

When did you first begin writing?

Answer: I was a Book Addict as a kid and started writing stories back in elementary school and just never stopped.

When did you begin writing seriously?

Answer: When I took the Institute of Children's Literature Course. I had never met another writer or author in my life, knew nobody in publishing, and had no idea the basics of crafting and submitting a story for publication. ICL Courses teach you all those vital skills so it was invaluable and some of my first sold magazine pieces came from that course.

How long did it take to obtain an agent?

Answer: Tracey Adams is my second agent and took nearly three years of querying, although that time frame is a little deceiving. I spent months and months researching agents and making sure I queried the ones who would be the very best match for me. I'd heard fantastic things about Tracey Adams from other writer friends, but at the time she was closed to queries so I had to wait to meet her at a conference. I followed her to SCBWI LA! She was so inundated with submissions it was many months later (and after sending her two full manuscripts) that we finally signed each other up! Six weeks later we had a 3-book deal with Scholastic. But I did query about 50 other agents!

Any advice you can give to us writers?

READ tons of books to figure out what kind you want to write. WRITE thousands of pages. GET a critique group for professional feedback. RESEARCH agents and publishing houses and editors. SUBMIT, submit, submit, until you hit pay dirt! But a word of caution: Don't submit too early! Make sure it sparkles! But do jump into the online writing world because it's fantastic and fun and you will make life-long friends.

Quick writing questions:

Plotter or panster? Combination Plotter/Panster

Quiet or music? Mostly quiet, but I do love music sometimes, too, for inspiration.

Laptop or desktop? Laptop with attached ergonomic keyboard and mouse.

Mac or PC? PC - but I've always wanted to try a Mac because everybody I know raves about their Macs!

Coffee or tea? Dr Pepper all the way!

Wine or other? Go DP - or Crystal Lite lemonade!

Day or night? Day, usually afternoon.

Circle of Secrets Trailer: