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:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Interview Madness

Deniz, wondering how many followers I'll lose.

Sweet  Deniz Bevaz 

Has interviewed ME 

Where I spill

Many embarrassing details about the Bad TV Shows 

I’ve watched.

I also discuss writing

And reveal whether or not I’ve ever been Haunted .

Please  VISIT  !

P.S.  You're not going to believe this, but I just used randomizer to choose a Halloween Haunting winner.  It's DENIZ BEVAN!  Congratulations, Deniz!  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Jessica Bell on Living in Australia

I know you were born in Australia, and now live in Greece. What was the reason for moving?

Well, my step father is Greek and my parents and I had traveled from Australia to Greece for holiday every two or three years since I was two years old. It really became like a second home to me. Just before I graduated from university, I decided I wanted an adventure and resolved to move to Greece for a year or two to teach English. (I completed the last semester of my degree via correspondence, because I was impatient.) I guess that year or two has now turned into almost ten. Funny that.

How long did you live in Australia?

For the first 20 years of my life.

What was the hardest part about adapting to another culture?

Oh, don’t get me started. Let me just say that the bureaucracy here makes life more complicated than it should be. Let me give you an example. I don’t have any Greek blood, and for me to live here legally and obtain a residency permit, my step father had to adopt me. So that he did. But because I was no longer a dependent when it happened (over 18), I had to prove that I could pay my own way. So I needed to find a job in order to stay. But guess what? I couldn’t get a job without health insurance. And I couldn’t get health insurance without a residency permit. And I couldn’t get a residency permit without a job … erm, so what happened, you ask? I think it involved some sort of bribe … . Only problem now is, I have to renew it every two years for quite an expensive fee. And after ten years, I still can not get used to the fact that the people in the public sector, that deal with immigrants, constantly get their facts wrong and send us running round in never-ending circles. I could go on and on, but I think I’ll stop now before I say something that gets me kicked me out of the country for slander.

What do you like best about living in Greece?


and this:

Do you think you’ll live there for the rest of your life? Why or why not?

I truly don’t know. I’d love to go back home to Melbourne, Australia. I miss my friends and family there a lot. But it’s a long way to go for many reasons I won’t get into here. Greece is suffering a pretty hard recession at the moment. The country announced selective default back in July (bankruptcy). We’re thinking of moving elsewhere in Europe to get back on our feet financially. Who knows what the future entails. I think I just have to go with the flow. Otherwise it stresses me out.

Did you begin writing before or after you moved?

I began writing novels after I moved, but I’ve been writing poetry and lyrics since I was twelve and short stories since university.

How has being an expatriate influenced your writing?

In every single way possible! I don’t think I can answer this without writing a book, but I will say that body language is very interesting to me. It varies so much from culture to culture.

In your writing, where do your settings take place?

String Bridge is set in Athens, Greece and Melbourne, Australia. My second novel, Bitter Like Orange Peel, is set in Melbourne, Australia and Seattle, USA. And my work in progress, Muted, is set in Arles, France. All realistic settings.

Quick writing questions:

Plotter or panster? Both. Depends on my mood.

Quiet or music? Funnily enough, quiet. Being a musician makes it difficult to allow music to linger in the background or set a tone. When I hear music my brain switches into a totally different mode.

Laptop or desktop? Both.

Mac or PC? PC

Coffee or tea? Both. Depends on the time of day.

Wine or other? Wine and Martini Bianco and Campari.

Day or night? Night.

Thank you so much for having me, Theresa! J

Connect with Jessica:

String Bridge:







Available as e-book and paperback:

Buy String Bridge for the UK HERE

Buy String Bridge for the US HERE

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