Sunday, August 9, 2020

Pandemic Diary -- August 9th: Tropical Storm Isaias and Spotted Lanternflies

Next on my TBR stack, a novel in verse! And isn't that a gorgeous cover?

Beyond Me by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu

Tuesday, August 4 (Day 148):

Hurricane Isaias has been downgraded to a Tropical Storm. But it's still a nasty storm with a lot of rainfall in a few hours. The storm drain in our backyard flooded. 

And of course, our power went out, around 11:30 am. We're grateful we have a small generator, to keep our food cold. We decided to do this after losing all that food in 2011 from Hurricane Irene. It also runs the microwave and a few lights and the TV (my husband would go nuts without that). But no oven or stove, no washer or dryer, no air conditioner. 

And, naturally, there's no internet. Plus, our landline phones don't work, even the old-fashioned one with the cord that we keep plugged in for emergencies.

Thursday, August 6 (Day 150):

Yes. We've been sheltering in place for 150 days. Hard to believe. And this virus is nowhere near over, even though some people seem to think it is. We will always wear masks if we absolutely have to go out in public, but we mostly stay home.

Still no power, of course, and no internet. It's been two full days now. But I can charge my cell phone and use it as a phone. Not to go online. The internet is still out. 

However, I still can't talk to my mother. Her phone in her new room in Assisted Living still isn't hooked up! This is extremely frustrating. My sister makes several calls a day to the service provider, but still nothing is happening. I wrote my mother another brief letter, telling her how much I miss talking to her.

Rain in the morning, but stopped by afternoon. And yes, the spotted lanternflies always appear in the afternoon when the sun comes out. 

This is just a small portion of the 30 or 40 (or 50) we kill every day now!

Burgers on the grill for dinner. Then we watched "E.T". Believe it or not, we had never seen it all these years. Have you?

Saturday, August 8 (Day 152):

Woke up with a raging headache. Still no power. This is the fourth day now! Peco is telling us it'll be restored by 11 tonight. It's getting old...

Power came back on at 11:26 am! Woo hoo! First thing I did was start a load of laundry. Thank goodness.  

Our sons visited in the early evening, when the deck is shaded enough to sit outside. They stayed about an hour and a half. It was lovely seeing them both again, even if I couldn't hug them.

Still waiting for Justice for Breonna...

COVID-19 World Stats as of August 8 (from WHO):

Confirmed cases: 19,462,112
Confirmed deaths: 722,285

US Stats as of August 8 (from the CDC):

Confirmed cases: 4,920,369
Confirmed deaths: 160,220

Tell me about you. Did you lose power from Isaias? Are you inundated with spotted lanternflies?  Are you continuing to shelter in place? 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Pandemic Diary -- I'm back! And the world is crazier than ever...

Currently reading -- and wow, is it intense and moving!

Sunday, August 2, 2020 (Day 146):

I'm back from my one-month break. You may not have even noticed I was gone. But the world (and the Covid-19 crisis, among other crises) went on. I'm not going to bore you with details from every day of the last month (I've been journaling the old-fashioned way -- in a spiral-bound notebook). Good grief, no! I'm also not going to discuss mask controversies (just wear a mask when you go out -- please!), continuing protests over racial injustice, or politics. Especially politics. You get enough of that in your news feed.

Looking back, two things stand out for me from July. 

1) I received and finished going through my copy edits for EVERYWHERE BLUE. This was a new experience for me. Being a debut author has surprises every stage of the journey. Apparently, I have no idea how to type an ellipsis. Always thought it was dot dot dot. But it's not! 

It's dot SPACE dot SPACE dot!

And I've never known the difference between en dashes and em dashes -- and when to use each. Thankfully, my copy editor knows.

The only thing we disagreed on was the spelling of rainforest. One word or two? Rainforest or rain forest? What do you think?

After emailing back the copyedited manuscript to my editor, I breathed a sigh of relief, because of the second thing that happened in July.

2) Toward the end of the month, my mother moved into Assisted Living. This is a huge step, a narrowing of her world, down from a three-room apartment to a single bed/sitting room, about the size of the average dorm room, but with private bath. And now that she's in Assisted Living, I won't be able to visit her, because of Covid. We weren't able to visit from March to early July, when she was in Independent Living. Then when our section of Pennsylvania finally entered the green phase in early July, we could visit again, with masks and distancing, of course. But last week, they moved her and of course that wing of the lifecare facility is off-limits. 

What hurts the most: her phone still isn't hooked up so I can't even call her. My sister is working on that. It's frustrating, to say the least. I sent Mom a card, but I have no way of knowing if she received it. 

I'm trying to keep busy and work on my next novel in verse while I wait for proofs and cover sketches from my publisher. And the second half of my advance, which should be here this week. I hope.

How have you been keeping busy this past month?

COVID-19 World Stats as of August 1 (From WHO):

Confirmed cases: 17,660,623
Confirmed deaths: 680,894

US Stats as of August 2 (From the CDC):

Confirmed cases: 4,601,526
Confirmed deaths: 154,002

As a comparison, here are the stats from a month ago:

COVID-19 World Stats as of July 2 (from WHO):

Confirmed cases: 10,710,005
Confirmed deaths: 517,877

US Stats as of July 3  (from the CDC):

Confirmed cases: 2,732,531
Confirmed deaths: 128,648

Yes, it just keeps going up. This won't be over anytime soon, I'm afraid. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Reposting a post from April 2016

*NOTE: This post originally appeared on April 4, 2016. It occurred to me today that it was strangely prescient, since my fifth novel became EVERYWHERE BLUE, which is due to be published by Holiday House in Summer 2021.*

Musings on writing my fifth novel


You read that right. I'm nearly finished writing the rough draft of my fifth novel. In the past nine years, I've written four MG novels and one YA, in addition to more than a dozen picture books. And no, in case you're wondering, I don't yet have an agent or a book contract. I've had fourteen publication credits to date, but they're all poems or flash fiction or micro fiction for adults.

Still, I keep writing for children and teens. Perseverance is my mantra.

But I have to admit, Novel #5 is, well, a little different. In what way?

Read on.

I started an idea notebook for my fifth novel back in the late spring of 2015, so nearly a year ago. After gathering ideas, and working out character sketches and a setting and a conflict, I wrote three chapters. Almost immediately, I became stuck. Something didn't feel right about it. So I put it aside and revised my fourth novel instead.

And then, in September, after reading Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton (even though it wasn't the first verse novel I read), I had an epiphany.

This new novel? The one I was stuck on? It was meant to be written in verse.

I spent two months reading and studying verse novels and then in November 2015 I started writing Novel #5 all over again.

Am I crazy? Well, this doesn't feel crazy. It feels... right. Since making that decision, the process has changed for me. Writing a verse novel is the hardest thing I've done as a writer, but at the same time, it's like I've grown wings. I look forward to writing every day, which is something I never did with a rough draft before. Rough drafts are usually agony.

I've been accepted into the Highlights Foundation workshop on Novels in Verse which will take place in May. Who knows where this will lead? Maybe nowhere. But maybe, just maybe, something good will happen.

For the rest of April, in honor of Poetry Month, I'll be looking at a few of the verse novels I've studied in my quest to learn this new (for me) form.

Over the past few years, I've read, in approximately this order:

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
42 Miles by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
May B. by Caroline Starr Rose (this made me first fall in love with verse novels)
Pieces of Georgia by Jen Bryant
The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle
Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas
Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli
Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli
Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton
Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Libertad by Alma Fullerton
Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

(I've also read Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, which is actually an autobiography, and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, which some consider prose poetry.)

What verse novels do you recommend? All suggestions are welcome.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Pandemic Diary -- Taking a break

I believe this is a spiny Spiderflower. It's a volunteer in our flowerbed.

Hi Everyone,

I've decided to take a break from the blog (and most social media) for the rest of July. And yes, I realize it's a privilege to be able to take a break. There are better people than I am out there continuing to fight against racism, police brutality, and the climate crisis. In addition, as I write this, currently 40 out of 50 US states are experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases. Wear a mask, people!

I'll still be keeping the journal in my notebook, but won't be posting about it here. 

Tuesday, June 30 (Day 113):

Delaware's governor, John Carney, announced he was closing the beach bars for the July 4th weekend. Delaware (not far from me) will remain in Phase 2 of reopening. Pennsylvania is in Phase 3, but we're one of those 40 states experiencing a surge, mostly in the Pittsburgh area and in Philadelphia.

“You can’t have a healthy economy unless you first have a healthy community, so let’s do the work we need to do together — not just the governor, not just me but all of us, to make sure we’re wearing these masks, we’re physically distancing, we’re going out, getting tested at one of the COVID-19 testing sites,” New Castle County Executive Matthew Meyer said.

Also today, I went to the dentist. This checkup and cleaning had been put off since February (I had a cold and after that the pandemic started...). It's a lovely feeling to have clean teeth again. Everyone on the staff wore full PPE, which relieved my mind, and I wore a mask right up until I sat in the chair to have my teeth cleaned.

My dental hygenist (who's been cleaning my teeth for at least 15 years) was thrilled to hear about my novel.

Currently reading:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015, One World, 176 pages)

Written as a letter to the author's 15-year-old son, this National Book Award Winner for nonfiction is a beautifully-rendered account of what it's like growing up Black in America. Gorgeous, somber writing, and an eye-opener for any white reader who may not understand what it's like for young Black men (and women) just to go out of the house, to be prepared for anything they might encounter.

Wednesday, July 1 (Day 114):

A deer got into our Accidental Garden last night and ate the top half off all our tomato plants and pea plants, just after they'd finally grown flowers and were even starting to sprout vegetables! We'd eaten a few tiny peas, but they really needed to grow more.

Thursday, July 2 (Day 115):

My husband added more deer fencing to the garden. Previously, the taller deer fence only covered half of it, and shorter chicken wire had covered the far end, which is probably how the deer managed to get in (and out) of the garden in the middle of Tuesday night. We're hoping this will keep them out for good!

I really felt sorry for my husband. This has been his project more than mine, since the spruce tree blew over in that windstorm April 30th. He was devastated, and it was a lot of work putting up all that fencing. I offered to help but he insisted he could handle it.

COVID-19 World Stats as of July 2 (from WHO):

Confirmed cases: 10,710,005
Confirmed deaths: 517,877

US Stats as of July 3  (from the CDC):

Confirmed cases: 2,732,531
Confirmed deaths: 128,648

The world now has more than half a million deaths from this horrible virus. Stay healthy. Stay safe this holiday weekend!

Have you been tested yet?  And what are you currently reading?

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Pandemic Diary Entry #18

St John's Wort growing in our backyard 


Monday, June 22 (Day 105):

Woke up with an aching jaw. Hasn't happened for a couple of weeks. Luckily, it went away after Tylenol and breakfast.  

Today is our anniversary! We've been married 35 years. 

Definitely the most unusual anniversary we've ever celebrated. In pre-pandemic times, we always went away for our anniversary, usually for three or four days. This year, of course, we're staying home. We "vacation" on our deck. And yes, I fully realize how fortunate we are to have this private little oasis.

Our best friends texted us in the morning and offered to bring take-out over for lunch. Of course, we said yes! It was a lot of fun. It was also a hot day, 93 F on our deck by 12:30, so we ended up eating inside. We set up our six-foot long rectangular kitchen table with two seats on each short end and the four of us talked and ate and laughed for about an hour. 

This was on my news feed today from the Washington Post. In case you can't access it, here are the first three paragraphs:

State and city leaders in the U.S. are responding to a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations by implementing new rules, scaling back on reopening plans and issuing dire warnings about the future of public health and the economy.

In lieu of a Florida statewide mask rule, several city mayors in Miami-Dade County are implementing their own mask requirements. Texas authorities temporarily suspended the alcohol permits of 12 bars for violating protocols designed to stem the crisis, as Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said cases and hospitalizations there are increasing at an “unacceptable” rate. And in Utah, the state epidemiologist is warning that the state could be facing a “complete shutdown” if cases continue to rise.

Twenty-nine states and U.S. territories showed an increase in their seven-day average of new reported cases on Monday, with nine states reporting record average highs. In the states where cases are spiking the most, hospitalizations are also rising sharply. More than 2,290,000 cases and 118,000 deaths have been officially reported in the United States.

Tuesday, June 23 (Day 106):

Today, I returned the manuscript to my editor, with the last few small changes she asked me to make a little over a week ago. She wrote back a few hours later to say, "I think we have a final manuscript. Congratulations!"


If you're not a writer, you may not realize just how exciting this is. But if you're a writer, published or unpublished, you'll know how cool this is. Now they'll start to work on the cover, the design of the book, and even marketing! I have to turn in my acknowledgments and the dedication, and I have to fill out an extensive packet for the marketing department. This will keep me busy for at least a week!


Also today, the Washington Post published some graphs showing the recent rise in virus cases in the US.   Why did so many states reopen before they'd reached their peak? This map is particularly frightening (if you go to the link, it's interactive, but even without that you can see how much the surge is affecting the South:


Wednesday, June 24 (Day 107): 

Today, I had to go to the eye doctor. This may not seem important, but I have hereditary glaucoma, diagnosed last October, and I'm supposed to get the pressure in my eyes checked every six months. The appointment was originally scheduled for April and got postponed until today because of the pandemic.

I was a bit nervous, and my husband (my driver) had to wait in the car as I went in with my mask on. They've installed plexiglass shields around the check-in desk and every staff member wore a mask (thank goodness!). One thing I discovered: it's actually hard to hear people when they're wearing a mask, especially if they're soft-spoken. I kept apologizing to the kind woman who checked me in because I couldn't hear the questions she was asking me. They want to know how you feel, if you've been exposed to anyone with COVID-19, and if you've been out of the country in the last three weeks. I feel fine and the other answers were no, so I was asked to wait in the large waiting room. They've removed most of the chairs and spaced the others at least six feet apart.

How odd, though, that the table next to me still held magazines! As if I'm going to touch a magazine someone else could have touched! This virus is really changing the way people think and act.

The good news is my glaucoma is under control and the doctor said my cataract can wait a year to be removed. It's not that bad yet.

The joys of growing old...

This article was in today's New York Times. Finally! Justice for Ahmaud Arbery, killed while jogging in Georgia on February 23rd.

Ahmaud Arbery, from CBS news, family handout

Leftovers for dinner. 

Started watching "Self  Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker" on Netflix. It's compelling to watch, with excellent acting and superb writing . I've been a fan of Octavia Spencer since "The Help" in 2011 and "Hidden Figures" in 2016. She's fantastic in "Self Made"! Wish there were more than four episodes.

From Wikipedia and Netflix

Friday, June 26 (Day 109):

Remember Keisha N. Blain? I started following her on Twitter a couple of weeks ago. Looking through her Twitter feed, I found an article she wrote in Ms Magazine about books written by women, to understand the uprisings. She includes brief reviews of each book.

I'm almost finished All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Have you read it? I'm impressed by the way these two authors take you deep into each of the main characters' lives to the point where they seem like real high school kids. Published in 2015, the book also brings the issue of police brutality to the forefront. Read this, especially is you liked The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. 

Today, I sent in my acknowledgments to my editor! Now I really have to get cracking on that marketing packet...

Keeping this post short. Stay healthy everyone!

COVID-19 World Stats as of June 26 (from WHO): 

Confirmed cases: 9,633,898
Confirmed deaths: 490,494

US Cases as of June 26 (from the CDC):

Confirmed cases: 2,414,870
Confirmed deaths: 124, 325

Have you seen "Self Made" on Netflix? And have you started venturing out beyond your home and the grocery store?