Sunday, January 15, 2017

On Watching My Father Move Out of the Apartment Next Door in the Rain




It's been a dozen years since my father died, yet his belongings were strewn in the parking lot the other day. They weren't my actual father's possessions, but those of the old man next door who passed away three years ago.

I never met my deceased neighbor, since I've only lived here a year and a half, yet from the clothing spewing from the top of a box I know he was slim and not particularly tall. He liked to stay in shape as evidenced from his bicycle, golf shoes, and golf clubs. He owned the same model canister vacuum cleaner as my father, and much of his scratched up furniture he'd been using since the late 60's like my dad, the kind of furnishings for a man who lived many years alone. The crew clearing out his condo split the man's favorite chair in two- a mustard yellow, crushed velvet recliner with headrest-  and dumped it in the back of a pickup. They also snapped the legs off the man's desk and hurled that in back.

The house cleaners may have pinched the portable TV set and VCR.

Dad had a dot matrix printer like the old man's, along with a brown Samsonite from the days before suitcase companies added collapsible handles and wheels to their luggage. One of my neighbors culled the set of 1955 encyclopedias lying on the ground. My dad still owned his 1958 World Book set when he died.

I almost ran down the steps to ask if I could have the aluminum lawn chair. It was one of those with nylon straps woven in a cross-hatch pattern. After my mother died and we moved across the country, my brother, father and I used a couple of those as living room furniture until our storage arrived. Years later, dad used those lawn chairs as additional seating when he held parties.

Was there no family left to take any of these things? Or had they already grabbed the good stuff? The property manager told me the old man had a daughter, but she was either unable or unwilling to pay her late father's HOA. The property is now owned by someone who flips houses.


I'm going to miss my dead neighbor. He was quiet. And I miss my father every day.

I hope you'll turn in to my next podcast. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheairradio2/2017/01/16/celebrate-release-day-live-with-stacy-trombley-for-pushing-the-boundaries

Saturday, January 7, 2017

On having My Name Replaced with a Tracking Number

THX119886753091212xyzY2K

Who doesn’t love getting a package in the mail? Especially a few weeks after Christmas when all the hoo haa is over and the drear of winter has planted its feet for the next few months. So yesterday when I opened my mail box my heart gave a little silent cheer when I found a key to one of the package lock boxes. Books, perhaps? I was expecting books from a couple of the authors I’ll be interviewing in upcoming broadcasts.

I opened the box and pulled out the square package that rattled when I shook it and clearly wasn’t a book. It also didn’t have my name on it. I checked the address; it was somewhere on 208th street. About 60 blocks from where I live. I scanned the return address. Not familiar. Clearly, this package was not mine. I often get other people’s mail, and my neighbors get mine. How in the hell did I get some else’s package, someone who doesn't live in my condo complex? Someone on 208th is probably waiting for this box. It may important. A set of puzzle pieces missing from a gift, a replacement charger for a phone, or a collection of rare coins.

I circled the address on the package with a note saying “nowhere near here,” and slid the box back inside its portal. I tried to pull out the key and lock it back inside my own mail slot but it wouldn’t budge. I hoped one of the notorious Seattle area package thieves wouldn't steal this person’s shipment, and walked away, dejected, as I got no other mail.

It’s well known among my friends I over think everything and this whole incident wouldn't let go of me. The address on the package was on the same street as the post office. I had been expecting a package from Express Scripts, something I needed. I checked my email, and it said the package was delivered. Well holy crap. That was my package. Why was the post office address on it but not mine?

It’s cold outside again today, and the last thing I wanted to do was venture outdoors, but the post office wasn’t answering the phone. I had no choice but to drive to the PO, stand in line and explain my faux pas to a human.

The woman behind the counter patiently listened to my tale, and took down the tracking number. There was no trace of the box’s location. It hadn’t been sent back, nor was it inside the PO. She surmised the package was probably still locked inside the box until the postal carrier figured out what to do with it. She admitted they had problems keeping regular carriers on our route when I mentioned continuous screw ups on mail deliveries.

“But why wasn’t my name or address on the package?” I asked. She replied the carriers use tracking numbers. “But how am I supposed to know the package is for me? I don't know myself by my tracking number.” She laughed, and said there should have been something on the box reflecting it was mine.

So now I’ll need to wait until Monday to find out the fate of my medical supplies in the mysterious package. Meanwhile, you can start calling me 1Yx2z56678888xxb….

Happy Writing.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Authors on the Air



I've begun a new enhancement to my writing career. I'm still writing, but I'm now also talking to other writers on the Young Adult Cafe through Blog Talk Radio http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheairradio2

While there is a learning curve to understand the studio, research a the writer, match up time zones between the author being interviewed and me, and advertise the LIVE broadcast on social media, it's also been great fun. Writers tend to be solitary people, yet put two writers together and have them talk about writing the dialogue flows freely.

The focus of my show is authors of Young Adult, yet I also have plans for upcoming episodes where high school students discuss what they like to see in YA, the view from an editor in YA, and a panel of writers on their process.

The link above is for my show upcoming LIVE this Monday with Patty Blount at noon EST. Here are links to a few recent shows. Enjoy!

January 2, 2017 C C Hunter
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheairradio2/2017/01/02/c-c-hunter-takes-us-live-inside-her-paranormal-world-in-the-young-adult-cafe

December 26, 2016 Beth Fehlbaum
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheairradio2/2016/12/26/ya-author-beth-fehlbaum-visits-the-young-adult-cafe

December 19,2016 Rebekah Dodson
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheairradio2/2016/12/19/author-rebekah-dodson-reveals-details-of-her-ya-novel-live-on-young-adult-cafe




Happy Listening

Writing.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Accolades and Aching Feet



There’s good news and bad news. I’ll begin with the bad; the publisher still doesn’t want the revision of my sequel to BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA.



But hope is not lost. The other night my feet hurt, my ego was blown from yet another of my daily catastrophes on the job (I’m not very good at my temporary part-time holiday job), and all I wanted was to take a shower to wash off the day, don pajamas and my new fuzzy robe, and let the cat purr in my lap. I poured myself a glass of cheap red wine and checked my email.

Holy crap! The same day I received the latest rejection, my editor and the public relations director both emailed me to let me know my YA novel, BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA, is listed as one New York Public Library’s 50 Best novels for teens 2016.  


It's been several days since I received the news and I’m still in a surreal state of suspension. Friends and family have all offered accolades but they have to because they love me. Strangers liked my book, strangers who read a lot of books.


Thank you, young adult librarians at the New York Public Library. You’ve made this former high school teacher/librarian’s feet ache just a little less.

Happy Reading.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Coming Soon to a Headset Near You



http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheair/2016/08/03/jacquelyn-mitchards-summer-scribes-presents-author-laura-moe


I've been quiet on the blog front lately and here's the reason; I'm being trained for my upcoming radio show called Laura Moe Presents the YA Cafe. It will be a live call-in show part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. The weekly show will comprise of me interviewing YA authors of multiple genres, readers of YA, librarians, editors, agents, and writers in general about the process. And of course audience members are free to call in with comments and questions. Some guests in my lineup include Charlaine Harris, Cat Skoor, Elizabeth Christy and Valerie Stein. It should prove to be a fun 30-40 minute podcast which will be live at 3 PM EST on Mondays beginning.....SOON. Meanwhile, if you click on the Authors on the Air link above, you can hear my editor Jacquelyn Mitchard interviewing me.

Happy Listening.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How to use BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA in the Classroom

I will be part of a panel this weekend for the Washington Library Media Association (WLMA) where we authors present ideas on how our books can be used in the classroom. THE WEATHER IS NOT WILLING TO COOPERATE, SO I AM UNABLE TO MAKE AN APPEARANCE. HOWEVER, I WILL OFFER A DRAWING FOR A FREE COPY OF MY BOOK . WLMA MEMBERS PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT ON MY TWITTER https://twitter.com/LauraMoewriter, Use the hashtag #WLMABWN . AT THE END OF THIS WEEK I WILL ANNOUNCE A LUCKY WINNER

Here is one idea.


Steps to Writing an Ode/Laura Moe

Select a person, place, or thing you like a lot or care about.  Brainstorm by following these steps: (Remind kids to keep it PG.)
In my example of a thing I use coffee.

Write 5 phrases describing how your item makes you feel, and why you feel this way.
            I like coffee because it gives me energy, coffee smells good, coffee is warm, etc.

Write 5 phrases describing the unique qualities of your subject

Coffee is strong, dark, liquid, portable, etc.


Why is your subject important to you? Why do you adore or admire it so much?
            Coffee is important because it wakes me up, makes my mornings better, helps me face the day

Now Revise by:

-Crossing out lines or phrases where words are repeated or are too similar

-Joining some of your phrases to create lines
-Adding more feeling to meaningless or figurative language to flat lines
-Picking a good opening line
-Ordering the lines into the best sequence
-Choosing an ending line that sums up your feelings for the object. Here is MY poem:

Ode to Coffee


It swims
dark as coal
warm as summer
in my cup.
The aroma beckons,
wakens me
on black, icy dawns
as it takes the chill
from my soul
and melts the edge
off my morning meanness.
Coffee is like a gentle symphony
whose crescendo rises slowly
as if pushing up the sun with one hand.
Laura Moe, 2009

Time: 40-45 minutes.
Students may choose to revise poems as homework or in class the next day.
Standards met: Personification, Language development skills. Teacher note: Introduce this lesson by using some odes by Pablo Neruda. “Ode to a Tomato,” Ode to Laziness,””Ode to Summer,” and “Ode to a watermelon,” are favorites with MS and grades 9-10. Point out how Neruda uses simple diction yet juxtaposes and arranges the lines to engage readers. Kids who read will like “Ode to a Book.” If kids are stumped, suggest write an ode to a favorite food, pet(s), car, bedroom, phone, computer, TV show, movie, friend(s), or store.

References:
Peden, Margaret Sayers, tr., Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 1990.

Tarn, Nathaniel, ed., Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems. Houghton Mifflin, New York: 1970.Happy Writing.

Students who enjoyed John Green's Looking For Alaska or Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell will also enjoy this book.



Monday, October 3, 2016

Crimes of Syntax


photo Alice K. Boatwright


I don’t know everything; in fact, sometimes I know nothing. Over the weekend I presented at the Write on the Sound Conference, a three day writer’s conference housed in a venue with a spectacular view of Puget Sound. My session was titled “Crimes of Syntax and How to Fix Them.” In my talk I used examples of my own wretched early-draft sentences for my YA novel-in-progress to demonstrate how revision strengthens the work. I gave the audience a brief background of my narrator, 19 year-old Michael, and his 18 year-old girlfriend Shelly. The participants agreed my revised syntax improved in each example. Then I showed them the following gem:

Original:

I think of Theo and Shelly alone in his apartment tonight. Those two have a history. She chose me, but she also said “this is where the heroine sets the hero free.” Does she want to be free of me? Are we just wandering atoms that attached, and will now disengage? Will she wait faithfully like Penelope, as I, Odysseus, drift alone at sea for the next five weeks?

I remarked the sentences in this are overwrought and melodramatic, and shared my revision:

My despair deepens when I imagine Theo and Shelly alone together for the next two days. Will they revisit their history? She had told me “this is where the heroine sets the hero free.” Does she want to be free of me? Are we like a rocket vaulting into space only to later split into separate components?

I clicked on a side by side comparison of the two, believing I had vastly improved my sentences. One woman raised her hand, and said, “If you were writing through an adult voice, this would be true, but your character is a teenage boy; his thinking at this critical juncture would be overwrought and melodramatic.”

I drew a quick breath and grabbed my chin. Holy crap, she was right. Why had that not occurred to me? Others chimed in, saying the melodrama added a touch of humor. One young man said the rocket image didn’t work nearly as well as the atoms, and they all agreed Michael would likely think of Odysseus given that he’s literary. Another woman suggested what may have bothered me about the original passage was the paragraph length and she suggested a spot where I could make a paragraph break.

As much as I wanted them to now rewrite my entire novel, it was ten minutes before lunch and I still had twenty more slides to show, so we had to move on. But my audience reminded me of a few things:

Years of writing, even having critical success, doesn't mean your next book is going to come more easily. In fact, it may be more difficult because you are competing with your best self.

Sometimes we grow too close to our stories to make critical judgments; we need a community of trusted early writer-readers who will provide objective criticism.

At a writer’s conference one’s audience consists of writers with varying skill levels. Even though I have more degrees than a thermometer, I always learn something new, or relearn something I already knew when I attend workshops, and often I learn these things from other participants rather than instructors. Students inadvertently teach if the teacher is willing to listen.

Which version do you prefer? My original, the revision, or something in between?

Happy Writing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016




The editor at my publishing house rejected my sequel to BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA; she said it lacked tension and not enough was at stake. When one works on a manuscript for two years, and tinkers through several drafts, this news can be devastating, and it calls for a night of wine and whine. Yet my editor was absolutely right. The tension and high stakes for the story were in there, but they were buried under 20,000 words worth of back-story.

I reread my book as an editor might, and asked Elizabeth, and she and I concurred on where I should start the story. As Les Edgerton says in Hooked The story begins at the inciting incident. It just took me 20,000 to show the reader where the good stuff was going to happen.

Just because I’ve written a semi truck’s worth of stuff doesn't mean I will remember my bad writing habits. Writing is like dating: you date the same damaged person over and over and try to save them, until one day, you finally acknowledge half of the problem is you. I get in my own way as a writer by clinging to my measly back-story as if the story will rush over a waterfall without it.


Admittedly, this is the highest number I’ve words I’ve incised from a single manuscript. Did the story fall apart? No. In fact, the liposuction helped give it a smoother shape. I’ve since added in 24,000 additional words, but these words are muscles, not fat. Around 8,000 of those words are reworked as flashback scenes from the 20,000 that fell to the cutting room floor, but most of the new material drives the reader deeper into Michael’s struggle. In THE LANGUAGE OF THE SON the stakes are clearer and the conflict apparent right away. It's a much better book.

So my next step is back to the soul crushing stage of of querying agents, accumulating rejections, and meanwhile writing book three of placing Michael in yet more peril.
Spoiler alert: Michael will be in this city:





Monday, August 15, 2016

Good Neighbors Tear Down Fences

(The old living room)

Moving across the country alone is a leap toward Mars. My friends, my routines and even my standard of living were left behind. Ohio is a relatively cheap place to live, but I was headed to Seattle, now in the top ten of most expensive places to live in the US.

(The new living room)

Shortly after I arrived I purchased a one bedroom condo for almost the same price for which I sold my three bedroom house on half an acre. I traded the comfort of an attached garage, washer and dryer, and well manicured lawns for outdoor parking, coin-op laundry and a view of the parking lot in the front and a senior trailer court in the back. But I knew ahead of time I was trading comfort for culture. Plus, I’m close to the Pacific Ocean.



One strange phenomenon is nobody in my neighborhood knew my name. There was no chance of running into someone saying, “Hey, Moe, how’s it going?” at the grocery store, or waving at a friend as they drove by during a walk. Back in Ohio I knew enough people I frequently ran into friends, neighbors and students, and my social life was fairly busy.

Luckily for me some of my family and a couple of friends live in the area, so I was not totally isolated. I was also proactive in obtaining my library card and finding a book discussion group. I tried on a couple of writer’s groups, but nothing seemed to fit. Initially my social life revolved around friends I’d made in two book clubs. I maintained a parking-lot-greeting acquaintance with my immediate neighbors, but didn’t “know” anyone in my complex.

This gave me a lot of time to write.

In order for me to do laundry and pick up my mail I need to wander through a labyrinth of narrow, shrub sidewalks behind several ground floor residents’ patios. During the winter rain drizzled almost daily and very few neighbors ventured outdoors. As the weather warmed up early in spring I met Robin, who spends a lot of time tending the lovely flowers extending way beyond the boundary of her single patio. When I first looked at my condo, I commented to my realtor that the grounds were nicely landscaped. It turns out the section I remarked on was largely due to Robin, and she and I conversed frequently whenever I walked by her place.

One afternoon I was trekking back from my mailbox. My friend Leslie was driving up for the weekend from Portland and I expected her any minute. I said hello to Robin, and she introduced me to Frankie, who lived across the courtyard. (It turns out Frankie had also contributed much of the interesting landscape in the complex.) I remarked I had a friend coming from out of town and wondered where we should eat. They recommended a neighborhood restaurant I hadn’t heard of which featured a 5.99 steak and egg breakfast served all day.

Have you ever watched the Love Boat? It’s a terrible show from the 70’s about a cruise ship, and every episode ends in a predictably outcome. But there’s a character on the show, the ‘social director,’ whose job it was to make sure everyone had a good time. Frankie is our condo social director. Shortly after meeting him, if I was doing laundry or walking to my mailbox, he’d wave me over to meet another neighbor. Soon, I was regularly invited to barbecues at Frankie’s and met even more neighbors and friends of Robin and Frankie’s. Since then I’ve dined out, gone to the movies and bowled with some of these folks, and I occasionally run into my new friends and acquaintances at the nearby grocery.
(My little social animal)

Writers tend to hole up behind our keyboards and pages, yet man is a social animals, so it’s good to go outside. Breaking bread, discussing books, and sharing movies with people helps me feel part of a place. I’ll always feel part of Zanesville Ohio, and vice versa, yet I have a second “family” here in  my new home, too.

Writing  prompt: What makes you feel at home?