Monday, August 30, 2010

Weighing my words I: (Anne the prude)

In the Guardian last Sunday, editor Stephen Pritchard explained the newspaper's policy on offensive words. His view is that respect for the reader should be maintained, except when a word is "absolutely necessary to the facts of a piece, or to portray a character in an article." As an example, he cites a recent piece on Ricky Gervais, where he felt it was necessary to use Gervais' full quotes to show "what a nasty piece of work someone can be."

Pritchard's reasoning doesn't strike me as a prime example of journalistic integrity, but I believe everyone who deals in words needs to have a personal rubric for weighing those words.

Lately the Blueboards have been discussing using the word "sucks" in a middle-grade (9-12) novel. I weighed in and said I probably wouldn't use it. Most others seem to disagree with me. I'm afraid I'm coming across rather prudish (which would surprise anyone who's read my writing!). However, my reasoning for avoiding "sucks" is because for being a vulgar word (at least to those over 40) it's not a powerful word. In my experience, "sucks" is a casual, whiny word that kids may say multiple times (dozens of times) a day. Because of that, I can think of numerous words I could use in its place that would express the same tone. However, when a 12-year-old is really angry, I can only think of a few words they might use (and jumping Jehoshaphat isn't one of them). If I'm going to get branded a vulgar writer, I'd rather do so for a moment that really matters, when a child is truly upset.

But that's how I weigh the word; others have to make their own judgments.

There are other words I'm careful about because they're considered offensive to specific groups of people. One of my previous students was from an area considered "ghetto" and was courageous enough in my classroom to call students on using the word "ghetto" to describe something poorly constructed or cheap. Many of my affluent students had never considered that by using the word "ghetto" they could be describing someone's home situation.

Now that many of you are thinking what a prude I must be... I should say that I use "sucks" and "ghetto" and many other offensive words in Project Sparkle (though granted, I am writing for teenagers, not middle-schoolers). While I weigh these words very carefully, and don't use them casually, I know kids do say them. When one of my male characters violently attacks a female character, he'll call her something offensive. When my female character is angry at herself and hurt, she may call herself offensive names, too.

I approach the language in my novel the same way I approach violence and sex in my writing. I try to do so respectfully, honestly, and with integrity towards my personal beliefs.

What types of words do you weigh carefully? Do you still use them?

Wednesday I'll blog about all the swearing in my novel in Weighing my words II: Anne the obscene. Hope you'll come back!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Reading while revising?

Some writers can't read while they're drafting. They're afraid a strong character's voice or a unique plot could influence their own. Perhaps because it takes me so long to develop my own ideas that has never been a problem for me. I read through so many books while I'm writing that I take inspiration from many, but none seem to influence me unduly.

However, I'm nearing the end of revising Project Sparkle and have discovered I don't want to read anything like it. I think it's because A. I'm getting ready to send my baby out into the world and I want her to be a special snowflake and B. I'm aware of all of her flaws. I find myself questioning my premise, my characters, and my world-building constantly now. So I really don't want to read another book like it, especially a good one.

On the other hand, remember on Monday how I said I'm going a little stir crazy from working too much? I need something to pull my head out of Project Sparkle, especially before I go to bed at night.

So what to read?

Last week I read David Plouffe's THE AUDACITY TO WIN about managing Obama's presidential campaign. I figured non-fiction might be the ticket. And while I enjoyed reading it, and have wanted to read it for a long time, I found myself lying in bed stressing about politics. So it did work as a distraction, but I don't think it helped me sleep any better.

This week, after The Booksmugglers' rave review of author Jaclyn Moriarty, I read BECOMING BINDY MACKENZIE (titled THE MURDER OF BINDY MACKENZIE in the US). I absolutely loved it, and it's a book quite unlike Project Sparkle in character and story, so it worked very well at getting my head out of my story. However, this time I was dreaming about Bindy.

Perhaps I need to read a bad book? I'm working through one now (to go nameless) which has a fun plot but terrible writing (with each sentence I'm resisting the urge to pull out a red pen).

One of my friends from the course (also in the midst of revising) has been reading Andy Stanton's MR GUM books, which I think is a BRILLIANT suggestion. They're a British series for 6-8 year olds, kind of a cross between Roald Dahl and Monty Python ("The truth is a lemon meringue!"). Very different from what I'm doing, hysterical, and no stress about the stories' outcome.

Can you read and revise? Read and draft? Any recommendations?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Scrivener

I've been promising a post on Scrivener for a while.

Last week I was adding a character into a chapter. I was trying to figure out how she'd enter the scene, so I jumped to a jpg map of the house I've created. Then I changed my screen view so I could see my chapter on the top of my screen, the house map on the bottom. Once I finished the scene, I pulled up my to-do list and crossed that item off. I did all of these things without ever exiting Scrivener, and without opening any other pieces of software. And it suddenly occurred to me: if it weren't for Scrivener, that would have taken twice as long.

I'm pretty stressed right now, overwhelmed with my revision... imagine where I'd be without Scrivener? A sea of sticky notes, pencil smears and piles of notebooks. And much much unhappier.

So what is Scrivener? It's a Mac program (sorry PC people!) designed specifically for writers. I can import text documents, images, and pdfs into folders. I have a folder for the novel itself, one for critiques I've received, one for resources, one for scenes and chapters I've cut. As I said above, I can manipulate the screen so I view two files at once. Scrivener also has a Full Screen mode that blacks out everything else (the internet, other files, Scrivener's menus) so I can concentrate solely on my text. I can tag characters and settings, I can mark a draft as rough, revised, or finished. For each file, I have a place to write notes, and I also have a notes section for the project as a whole. A feature called Snapshot lets me capture the text of a file, so I can rewrite without worrying I'll lose everything if I change my mind (and if I do I can revert back to my earlier version). I can view all of my chapters on the screen in front of me as note cards on a bulletin board (and move and switch them around, just like on a bulletin board, too).

I could go on and on and on. If you're interested, Scrivener has information on all of these features (with pictures) and more on their website.

Scrivener is like my brain. Or my personal assistant. Anything I think to upload is there, easy to find. Besides jpg maps of the house, I've included resources like a Chicago bus schedule, images of my characters, the first chapter of a book similar to Project Sparkle which has been a great inspiration (available for free online), a list of characters, links to online articles. As I told someone recently, if I were to imagine the perfect tool for my writing, Scrivener is pretty close to what I would have imagined. While I had to sit down with the tutorial and spend some extra time figuring out features, it has been fairly easy to learn. It's user friendly and does almost everything I can think to want. Plus, it can be used for any type of writing, academic, script, school.

You can download it online for a 30-day free trial. If you like it, it's available for purchase online at just under $40 (version 2.0 will be unveiled this fall). And no, I don't work for Scrivener, I have no affiliation with Scrivener. I had the trial version for three days before I bought the entire thing for embarking on Project Sparkle. It has streamlined and simplified my writing life. I'm totally 100% in love.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Eating, sleeping, breathing Project Sparkle

The closer my due date comes, the more frantic I get about Project Sparkle. I'm not behind, but come September 30th, I want to turn in the best, most complete novel I am capable of writing. Obviously I don't want to hit my deadline and think, "If only I had about four more days..."

So the past two weeks I've been pushing myself harder and harder. And worse, unlike when I was drafting Project Sparkle this spring, I don't have many milestones to point to for reassurance. I can't say, I wrote 3000 words today, or I drafted my climax this week. Rather, I've been adding paragraphs, tweaking individual lines, reassessing the tone of certain scenes. And apparently revising takes me a LOT longer than drafting.

Those of you following me on Twitter have seen my frustration these past few weeks. It feels like for every hour I put in, I come up with three more things to add to my to-do list. Each night I've struggled to fall asleep, as every time I lie down, I start thinking through what else needs to be done and how best to do it.

I had a welcome treat this weekend. Firstly, I told Phil if we didn't go out I might start throwing things. Apparently that was the wake-up call he needed. Saturday morning we went out to lunch, shopping, and saw Toy Story 3. A very welcome distraction. Secondly, I finally reached a point in my revision where I needed to do some reading to see if my tweaks and rewrites were working. I read chapters 1-8 of Project Sparkle, roughly the first third of the book. And you know what? It was actually good. Really good, in fact.

So I am making progress. I would just can't wait for the end of September.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Today is the first day of the rest of your life

Yesterday British teenagers learned their A-level scores. This is a HUGE deal in the UK. These scores determine what university a student will go to, what they will study, and even whether or not they may attend university. They're kind of like American SATs, except they're subject specific and they're pretty much the only scores universities consider (no GPAs, no community service, no interest in the "whole student.").

The philosophy of education in the UK is very different than in the US, though I do see the US heading down this route the more people talk about national tests and teacher standards. The best way for me to show the difference is a conversation I had once with one of my co-workers about studying high school French:

"But if you don't get an A-level in French," she said, "How do you know how good you are at it?"

"You still get a grade for your class," I said.

"But what if your teacher's biased? Or incompetent?" she said. "How do you know you really understand French?"

"I guess if you can read French and speak French, then you really understand French," I said.

"But how will a university know that?" she said.

Keren David has written an excellent post for her blog about how, contrary to popular opinion, poor A-level scores do not have to ruin your life. Highly relevant for every one, I think, even non-Brits!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Still revising...

September promises to be busy, with a friend's visit, another meeting with my tutor, the Bath Children's Literature Festival, and numerous other life stuff, not to mention my looming deadline. So I'm trying to make the most of a quiet August to revise as much of Project Sparkle as possible.

I'm working through a combination of my list of things to do and Julia's list of things to do. I was combing through the manuscript yesterday when I reached one of her notes, scrawled at the end of a chapter: "What happens the same evening? When he comes round for supper with them all? A missing chapter!"

Did you notice the exclamation point at the end of that? It's centered on the page with an arrow pointing to it, too.

Yeah. I think she's excited about this presumed missing chapter. That makes one of us.

So while I'm sorting out that, I figured I'd share this with you from Patrick Rothfuss' blog. Rothfuss is the author of the fantasy novel THE NAME OF THE WIND, which I read earlier this year and quite enjoyed (love my epic fantasy). A fan asked Rothfuss about his revision process. His response made me laugh in a sadistic, I-totally-get-how-much-this-stinks sort of way. It also made me super glad Project Sparkle is well under 100K. Enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thanks for a great year (and a bit)

It's the one year anniversary of Critically Yours!

Actually, the one year anniversary was at the end of July... Oh well, I've been busy.

The blog was ostensibly created to chronicle my one year MA in Writing for Young People. Looking back, it's been quite a year. At the end of July, I quit my job. At the end of September, I learned an excerpt of my novel ADELE had been selected for British SCBWI's UNDISCOVERED VOICES. I was overwhelmed with enthusiastic emails and phone calls from interested agents and publishers. I learned the hard way to say no, that I needed time to finish my book and feel good about it before I sent it out into the world. In October I started school, heavy with trepidation--luckily, I quickly fell in love with my program. In January I started a new manuscript, dubbed Project Sparkle because of its sparkly newness, and fell in love with it. In February I attended a launch party for UV. In March I finished my first draft of Project Sparkle. At the end of June my MA coursework was finished, too. And now here I am, working on revisions for Project Sparkle. The final manuscript is due September 30th (and yes, I am now counting the weeks).

So much has changed in one year, it hardly seems possible. The publishing industry is extremely competitive, so there is no assurance of anything. But I finally have a manuscript I love and really believe in. I have numerous agents interested in seeing it. I have such a better understanding of the industry and myself as a writer.

I've also made friends! I didn't start the blog with that in mind, but that has easily been the biggest benefit. I've met so many amazing people along the way, and you all have been so friendly, open, and supportive. Thank you.

So what's next for Critically Yours? Well, this fall, once I've made changes to Project Sparkle given feedback from my program, I'm hoping to send it out. Writing through my process this year has been so positive and reflective, I'm inclined to continue blogging my submission process. And then we'll see what happens. Who knows where another year could take me?

Thank you.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Writing American in Britain

I wouldn't dream of writing a British novel. Even though I've lived in Bristol for three years, I still find myself stumbling over cultural and linguistic differences. Actually, I think it was being away from Chicago that inspired my current novel.

I've been thinking about the differences between American and British English recently. WHEN I WAS JOE by Keren David is coming out in the US this September (buy a copy! Or three! It's amazing!!!). Keren's publisher has decided not to "translate" the book for American audiences, which is a decision I applaud, as the book is very much about and set in London. However, it does mean Americans, especially teens, may puzzle over some of its language. So I helped Keren put together a British to American translation for her blog (definitely read this, it's hysterical).

When I interviewed for my MA course, the instructors asked me if I realized I would primarily be studying the UK market. I told them I had expected that (besides, there's a lot of overlap between the US and UK markets). However, I asked for permission to write American, as I've always intended to market my work to an American audience. My tutors have certainly held up their end of the bargain, and none of them have criticized my spelling or grammar.

But the ride isn't always smooth.

My last debate with my tutor was over the word dribbling. In the UK, instead of drooling, people usually say dribbling. Whereas in the US, I believe the word drooling is much more common. Of course, one also dribbles a soccer ball (football) and a basketball.

So if my character is playing basketball and he is bent over, dribbling... does that make him sound decrepit? My tutor thinks yes. I think that's how you dribble.

My favorite recent critique was from a British writer concerned by my character sucking a Blow Pop. Blow Pops, of course, sound rather obscene if you didn't grow up with them.

I don't usually mind these critiques from British writers. I find language and playing with it fascinating. And if I can find a better and clearer way to word my sentences, that's no bad thing either.

However, sometimes I get frustrated when someone takes it upon themselves to correct my spelling or grammar. The most annoying comment I've received was regarding my main character going to the beach. The writer underlined "beach" and wrote in the margins of my story: "Weren't we in Chicago before?" Grrrr.


Currently I'm struggling over the word anymore. Or is it any more? It's always any more (two words) in the UK. In the US I think it might be one. Or it may vary depending on the circumstances. If anyone knows anymore (any more) I'd love to hear it!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Naming the world

Something that amazes me about the Harry Potter books: where did Rowling get all those names? Everything and everyone is named; all the kids, teachers, parents, house elves, familiars, and even muggles.

I have two ways of naming my characters. For my main characters, I need to spend days, even weeks, brainstorming different names, trying them out, searching for the perfect match. This strategy works well, though of course it's time-consuming. For my more minor characters, I frequently just grab a name from somewhere around me. The next door neighbor in my stories is frequently named after my real next door neighbor. The principal after my high school principal. The main characters' friends are often named after my own friends, or children I've taught. This strategy also works well. It's fast and mindless.

However, it's also prone to enormous problems. What if Project Sparkle actually sells? What if people actually read it? It's okay, I suppose, if in the novel the principal is real nice and a real minor character. But what if he's not?

I've known for months that I need to change some of the characters' names in Project Sparkle. But I've had so many other important and time-consuming things to do, like writing the book. So I've just stuck with the names I've had. And worse, these names have become cemented in my head as I've developed my characters. Now it's hard to imagine the principal named anything else.

But I guess getting sued would be even harder. So back to the drawing board.

My friends on the Blueboards have been tremendously helpful this past week as I've struggled with this. One person suggested the website Nymbler, a name generator.

How do you name your characters, especially the minor ones?

Monday, August 9, 2010

The other side of the world

I mailed my first revision of Project Sparkle to my tutor on the 23rd of July. It was a mad scramble to finish, and rather than feeling relieved with what I had accomplished, I worried I hadn't done enough.

I have a meeting scheduled with Julia (my tutor) at the beginning of September. She's taking a well-deserved vacation for the month of August. In the meantime, I figured I'd work on fixing the things I knew still needed fixing. I was a little worried that without her feedback I would run out of things to do, but I've got a few other friends reading the draft. Also, I figured if I had to take a few days off, or some time to play with other projects, I still had September to pull everything together.

Well, I went to get the mail on Friday afternoon and discovered Julia had sent back my manuscript. I debated not opening it. Phil and I were going to a friend's wedding this weekend, and I had said I wouldn't do any work. But of course I couldn't NOT open it. I needed to see what Julia thought.

I found a type-written letter, in a small, 10 inch font, filling the entirety of the page. The first sentence is: "I enjoyed reading your story very much." The last is: "Enjoy it [the revision]: it's so good doing this when you know the story works on the page, that there IS a story!" Everything else? Critique.

Julia told me my main character's voice falters at moments, sounding a bit too polite, a bit too adult, a bit too much like me. She also said I need to work on narrating the story from inside her head more (ie, would she notice she shrugged?). She suggests a few short scenes I might add to strengthen character relationships in the book. She doesn't like one plot moment, where my main character does something by mistake instead of actively deciding to do something. She wanted a bit more explanation of my setting, some clarification around one of the fantastical elements.

At first I felt overwhelmed. I really wanted just one sentence saying, "Good work, Anne, you did exactly what you needed to do, this is much better." Of course, I think she was saying that in her first sentence, implying it in her last. She assumes I know it's much better. And I do. But a little confirmation is nice, too.

Then I started flipping through the actual manuscript. As I've said before, Julia puts check marks by things she likes.
One check mark from Julia is worth five compliments from anyone else. I trust Julia, and I know that if she likes something, it's working. Sometimes she does double check marks and I'm over the moon. I got a triple one once. I may frame it.
Remember how I completely rewrote my climax? Julia doesn't say anything about it in her typed letter. But here's a rundown of her handwritten comments:

Chapter 26: 1 voice issue
Chapter 27: 2 double check marks
Chapter 28: 1 freaking out moment where she questions my main character's emotional state. 1 voice issue. 1 double check mark. 1 TRIPLE check mark.
Chapter 29: 1 check mark.
Chapter 30: 1 double check mark.
Chapter 31: 1 check mark. 2 typos.

Here's a picture of the beginning of Chapter 28. Just to show off my triple check mark.

So overall? I think the revision was a success. The new climax is definitely working. My biggest fear was that Julia would point out holes in my plot or characters, but that hasn't happened. I can move ahead on my micro-revisions, and I've been given an extra three weeks to incorporate Julia's comments.

And my weekend? It was a hellish journey to Aberystwyth (which is on the west corner of Wales, miles away from anything). We had a juvenile delinquent harass us, a neighbor who was on his third can of beer, a train delay so we missed the ceremony. But the good news is that I apparently work well on trains and I knocked out a rough sketch of one of the scenes Julia suggested. It fits perfectly, like it was meant to be. It also justified me not working the rest of the weekend. Then we got to Aberystwyth, in plenty of time to change for the reception, and were bowled over by its beauty. And there was something very cool about being on the other side of the world looking at the same ocean.


Happy writing to you all!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thanks... passing on an award!

My blog won an award! Thanks, Medeia!


Medeia Sharif passed The Circle of Friends Award on to me. The rules are simple: pass the award on to five other bloggers, provide a link to their blogs when you do so, and then notify them. You should also check out Medeia's blog about YA books, writing, and life in general. Also, her YA novel, BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER., comes out from Flux in 2011. Yay!

So, without further ado, The Circle of Friends Award goes to:

Anna Staniszewski

Keren David at Almost True
Andrea Vlahakis at Up the Attic Stairs
AnneB at Making It Up as I Go
Heidi Ayarbe at Feeling Foreign: A writer's life in Columbia

In other news... I got my manuscript suggestions back from my tutor in the mail yesterday. Yes, that's THREE WEEKS before I expected it. I'll probably post more about this next week, but for now...

The good news? Well, that's three weeks more to get those revisions done than I thought I had. And overall she seemed to like it. She suggests some places where the voice falters, a few scenes I might add, a slight plot change, but nothing onerous. Phew!

The bad? There goes my weekend.

Hope you all have a good weekend, whether working or not!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vacation reading


Choosing books to bring on vacation is a serious deliberation for me. They have to be hefty enough to last me being stranded for seven hours in Amsterdam. They have to be engaging enough that I can block out the giggling girls, two in one seat, in front of me. The best ones are so compelling that I'm happy my fight is overseas, so I'll have time to read the entire book cover to cover.

Books by authors I've read before, books highly recommended by friends/trusted bloggers, and adult books are usually what I choose. Adult books feel a bit like vacation reading already, because I usually read (and study!) children's literature. Also I can't read adult literature in under two hours, so each book lasts longer (thus less baggage).

I was in a bit of a panic for my most recent trip. I had chosen:

CASE HISTORIES: A NOVEL by Kate Atkinson (recommended by a writing friend)
THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N K Jemisin (recommended by The Booksmugglers)
FLYAWAY by Lucy Christopher (author of STOLEN, which I LOVED).

Unfortunately the Jemisin fantasy and the Christopher book arrived at the library too late for me to pick them up. I had only the Atkinson. I rushed to the bookstore and managed to find Sarah Water's FINGERSMITH (I enjoyed THE LITTLE STRANGER and had wanted to read another of her books). I had recently started a children's book which I knew I wouldn't finish by the time I left and brought that as well.

Then I got lucky. I was searching my local library's website for something, and discovered they have a service called Clipper Audio. I can "check out" audio books as mp3s on my home computer. Incredible, huh? I'm not a big audio book fan, but I thought it would be perfect for the trip. I downloaded BETWEEN TWO SEAS by Marie Louise Jensen (a former Bath Spa graduate!) onto my iPod.

BETWEEN TWO SEAS is lovely. It's actually narrated by Jensen herself. She does all the voices, some of which are in English, some in Danish, some in French, and all sound unique. Plus, it takes place right on the coast, so as I walked Punta's coastline, I was easily transported to Denmark.

I discovered an audio book to be my perfect travel companion. I could block out the airport noise around me and didn't even need to carry a book. A definite must for my next trip.

Oh, and final assessment? FINGERSMITH was excellent, I enjoyed it even more than LITTLE STRANGER. The children's book was meh, but perhaps that's because it's a sequel to a book I haven't read, so it was hard to get into. I'm still in the early pages of the Atkinson.

What about you? What types of books do you travel with?

*The image is mine, another beach shot. The black dots, if you can see them, are surfers.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A break on the beach

Sorry for the blogging hiatus. I was on vacation, and anticipated limited internet-time, but have been told never to say on a blog that I'm away. Because obviously someone could read the post, track down my house, and steal all of my worldly possessions (which isn't much, but does involve my laptop). Not that I really think this would happen, but if it did, it'd stink.

The good news: more pictures! =)

Phil was at the International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology, and as it was in Punta Del Este, Uruguay, and I've never been to South America, I tagged along.*

As you see, Punta is right along the coast, about two hours east of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Nothing is in the center of Uruguay, apparently, except farms.


Here's the view from our 8th floor hotel window. Yes, that is sea on both the east and the west of us:


It felt so nice to be by the sea, smell the salt air, watch the waves. And the FOOD. I anticipated steak, and wasn't wrong. It was HUGE, juicy, and extremely inexpensive. But when I wasn't eating steak, I was eating fresh seafood. South Americans don't seem to believe in fruit and veg, though. Towards the end of the week, I was happily eating every scrap of green garnish on my plates.

Here's another view from the window at sunset:


Lovely, huh? The downside? Well, it's winter in Uruguay. I was fine most days in a long-sleeved shirt, sweater and jacket, but when the wind blew, it REALLY blew. Here's our balcony on one of the not so nice days:


Also, Punta del Este is a huge resort town (as you probably guessed from the above pictures). In December and January, the rich flock there. In July, well, everything's closed. One day it got up to 60 and miraculously all sorts of businesses and tourist offices opened. Otherwise, it was pretty desolate. I took a day trip to Montevideo, and a boat ride out to Los Lobos, a sea lion island sanctuary. Otherwise, I read, enjoyed the sea, the surfers, the wild life, and even worked a bit on the novel. No complaints--it was a lovely break!

Oh, yes, the sea lions? There're a few in the harbor. They wait for the fishermen to gut their fish, then beg just like dogs. I could watch them for hours (and I have hundreds of pictures to prove it). Here's one, just for a taste:


Here's a sea lion sleeping on the harbor. I hope he was just having a snooze in the sun and not ill:


The island of Los Lobos is home to thousands of sea lions, and apparently even the rare elephant seals (yes, all of those blobs are sea lions). I didn't get as many pictures of this because as someone who gets motion stick in a car, I don't handle boats well, especially when they're dealing with waves:


Oh, and penguins! You'll have to trust me on this, because this is my best picture, with full zoom, but if one watched closely, you could see penguins riding the waves:


You may have seen pictures of this hand sculpture before, on the beach at Punta:


Happy to be back (especially after a return trip that lasted about 36 hours and involved a school group of 100+ middle schoolers traveling to London). I've stocked my fridge full of fruit and vegetables and am looking forward to getting back to some serious writing.

Hope you're enjoying your summers!

*I have to be honest; as a teenager I never fantasized about marrying a scientist. I was WRONG. I've traveled the world because of Phil's work. Young people, take note!