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My Debut Book

 Dear All,

I just wanted to let you know of the release of my debut picture book:
The White Nights of Ramadan published by Boyds Mills Press.
I want to share the ISBN number with you:  978-1-59078-523-2
It's a cultural book about a candy festival that goes on for three nights in the month of Ramadan.

Happy Reading!
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MFA at Vermont College

 I just started my MFA at Vermont College, and recently got back from my first residency.  What an experience.  It is surreal in how much it inspires and motivates writers.  It also gave me the chance to meet some of the worlds most amazing people who all shared my passion for writing.  I can go on and on about it, but suffice is to say that by day two my colleagues and I were able to finish each others' sentences and shared our experiences in writing.  For anyone considering an MFA in writing.  This is a program to consider.  Now on to the real work of writing and producing the novels and works I committed to.
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Spring Break

 Spring break has been interesting in many ways.  For one, I need a break from this week-long vacation to recover.
My daughter, who joined her crew team needed a ride to and from the 'river' each morning at 7:30AM, so that did away with my potential sleeping-in time.  I also had to pick up at 6:30 in the afternoon.  She had two practice sessions and in between the two sessions, she opted to go home with friends who lived close to the river.  Which was a blessing.  So each day I dropped off at the river, and in the interim time another parent picked up from the river to take to the 'friend's' house.  This was fine, until it was my turn to pick up in the interim time.  You see that day I had just purchased a new GPS system.  As I was leaving the river with my daughter and one friend, I had the option to follow another car with other team-mates going to the same destination, but I opted to rely on the GPS.  This proved to be a huge mistake.  We left the river area as per the GPS instructions.  I did not realize that the GPS had a special beep to indicate exact turns.  After missing one, the GPS declared it was "calculating route."  This is the polite way the GPS has of saying, you messed up!  "Proceed to next legal U-turn" it suggested.  Only that was not really possible in the array of one-way streets I found myself ensnared in.  All was not lost, however, because I still had the route programmed in.  My daughter and her friend, both high school students at a 'science and technology' magnet school decided they could help.  My daughter picked up the GPS and pressed a button.  I don't know how she decided this was 'the' button to press, but all I know was that I heard the GPS announce, much to my chagrin "Cancelling route!"  Now it was really getting messy.  Adding to all that, I was running out of gas, so we had to find a gas station in this unfamiliar terrain.  The GPS helped with that.  As I filled up with gas, the girls retrieved the program.  I was commenting about the area and how the beauty salon across the street was named "Head-Turner Salon" when Bingo!  the girls recognized it as the landmark they remembered to be near their friend's house.
With the GPS humming in the background we found the house on our own merit.  As I pulled into the drive-way the GPS announced, "you have arrived."
Sure enough I had.  Now I needed to get home and that GPS experience is a story of its own.
Real life stories bring in characters, obstacles and high stakes, much like the world of writing.  The high-stakes of my real-life story came from being lost and laughing so much that my stomach muscles ached.  I think I'll stick to Yahoo Maps until I'm better acquainted with my GPS.
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SpongeBob and other forms of measurement

It all started with my son's first grade class celebration of "The Hundredth Day of School."  The first graders were asked to design a shirt that commemorates the day by including 100 items.  Some children glued pennies, some had flags, others had 100 new words they learned.  As a mother, I wanted 100 of an extremely-easy-to-put-together idea that was painless, yet met with my son's approval.  A visit to Walmart took care of that.  I was in the art supplies department when bingo!  I spot SpongeBob ribbon.  I bought two rolls and fabric glue, a plain shirt and went home with a beaming first grader, ready to take on the design of the shirt.  We were done in ten minutes and had reams of extra SpongeBob ribbon for more projects.  The shirt was a hit in school.
Fast forward one week  My daughter, who signed up for high school crew, needed to fill out all her school forms to enable her to join the team.  Health clearance papers, field-trip slips, transportation carpool papers....and measurements for her crew racing 'unitard-outfit'.  With no sign of my measuring tape anywhere, I had to resort to the SpongeBob ribbon.  The paper looked something like this:  Waist: 24.5 SpongeBobs.  Hips: 26 SongeBobs and so on.  Then with a small ruler and working out how many SongeBobs to a foot I was able to convert the measurements.
It will be a few weeks before we get the outfits delivered, but I remain hopeful that the SpongeBob measurements were accurate.
Even a non-mathematical person like myself, sometimes has to resort to numbers.  Likewise in writing, you sometimes need to research topics you know little about, or even a topic you don't enjoy, to ensure accuracy.
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To Chaperon or Not to Chaperon

          With two daughters interested in Model United Nations, I have had several chances to chaperon them on their various out-of-town events. During these conferences, my teen-aged daughters and their peers are assigned countries and they become delegates in a simulation of the United Nations.  They discuss world events, debate issues, resolve political matters and pass UN resolutions.
          For the past four days, I was chaperon for my daughter's school for a conference in Philadelphia.  This was the first for me to chaperon in high school and the turnout was massive, with 2000 delegates from all over the world, some flying in from China, for the event.  My daughter's school had 105 students participating and, as it turned out, I was not assigned to chaperon my daughter's room....Which was fine by me, seeing that the whole idea was to be around, if needed, but to give my daughter space to be independent and responsible.  This is how things went:

Day 1:  Daughter misplaced shoes and money.

Day 2:  She found the shoes but got them soaking wet in a puddle walking in the sleet to lunch.  Borrowed my boots

Day 3:  Nothing got lost, got hit up for money,though.  Oh well.

Day 4:  We arrive home and oops!  Suit, and boots (mine) are missing.  Daughter had placed them, not in her own luggage at check-out but in a white, unmarked, plastic bag that she dumped , not in, but over the three pieces of luggage she had. 

Now, the boots, I can live without, but the suit is a story on its own.

This is the same suit I spent the ten days before we traveled finding for my daughter.  She, a princess, would stay home, while my other daughter and I, would go to various stores, find, what we considered a suitable suit, purchased it, and scurried home so that, afore-mentioned princess would try it on and dismiss it, sending us scurrying back to return it.  This went on for days, until finally I struck gold:  I finally found the only suit in our county, that my daughter liked!  This is the very suit I spent Monday morning calling the hotel and trying to locate.  So far no luck.

As chaperon I was assigned to check the rooms after they were emptied of bags.  There was no trace of anything left behind, but I had no idea that I had to ask:  "Did any of you pack your clothes in unmarked white bags?"

Even in writing, sometimes you check sources and material, but end up with something totally unexpected that needs to be researched further.  With time, writers learn to cover all bases...It's called experience.
From my experience, to chaperon or not to chaperon renders the same end result.  Lesson learned.

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No Coincidence

A few weeks ago, on a rainy day, I looked out into the backyard and saw a large bird perched in a tree.
My six-year-old son loves animals, especially unusual birds, and he got his binoculars for us to take a closer look.  The bird seemed to be a kind of bird of prey with a hooked beak and a short neck.  I went on-line and looked up images of falcons and found out it was a peregrine falcon, a bird of prey that was endangered at one point, but which was now bouncing back from that plight.  I also found out that this bird was a long way from home.  The falcon took off, but left my son and me with many questions.
My son loves to add displays to a few shelves in his room that he calls "the museum."  He decided we needed to visit the library for books on this bird.  It was a great way to change the mood from all the rain and off we went.  The database was rife with books on birds of prey, but only one was specifically a story about a peregrine falcon.  It was an A to Z Mysteries book entitled "The Falcon's Feathers."  To my surprise, I found out it was written by Ron Roy.  What a pleasant surprise it was.  Ron was the first instructor that ever taught me the know-how of writing for children and young adults.  It was really nice to find this book and it really got me thinking.
It is indeed a small world, but in the non-routine of my life I took this as a sign that things happen for a reason, and even when one is hit by some unforeseen 'mishap' from left field, there is a way to regain resiliency in the face of the unexpected.  Some people feng-shue their attitude faster than others and bounce back to write...more regularly.  Some need to be prompted back with a word, a good book or perhaps a coincidence.  It took a resilient-peregrine-bird coincidence for me.

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Black Friday

There was irony to the fact that the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday.  At our house this year right after Thanksgiving dinner was put away on that Black Friday eve, we had a windy storm sweep through our area, resulting in a power outage.  My younger two children immediately declared that no way they would sleep in their own beds, but will join me in mine.  My teen daughters wanted to know if I was upto taking them and a few friends to the mall at four in the morning for early bird shopping the next day before dawn!  I just wanted to sleep and get the day over with.  With my young ones tucked into bed with me and the teens in stereo trying to secure a promise that I would get up at 3 AM the next day, I felt the only option I had was to call the "not clean room" card.  I told my daughters they had to have clean rooms before I would take them....knowing fully that there was NO way they could get everything out of their rooms in time.  My son decided he wanted to write a poem about the dark, so to the light of his little lantern this is what he wrote before sleeping:

My son is a first grader, but I have to share his little contribution entitled THE DARK with his own spelling.

The dark is a littl skary.  
But it can be fun too.
You can do lots of things in the dark
lets name a fuw like flash lite tag or hide and seke or maby you can make shados on the walls.
And we can allso name a fuw of things that can't wrk in the dark like Tv or lits and the mikriwav.
But thar are things that wrk in the dark like fosits or flushing a toylit and you can use a fon.
Do you nowe why some of the werds are speld rong is bicuse I'm writing this in the dark!

I have to say, I loved this poem no end!  Then it was lanterns out...

Long story short, I was awoken at 3 AM by my daughter saying her room was now spotless and would I now take her shopping.  I thought she must be sleep walking.  I could not get up at that unearthly having been kicked all night long by my young bed guests....but I did end up at the mall at 8 with all the rest of the world shopping!  I love crowds and really enjoyed the mall too.  Everyone ended up happy anyway, which is both rare and good sometimes.  But what amazed me about the children was how they used their lantern/flashlight time efficiently.  It's amazing what one can do when one is motivated, I guess.

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A Lot to be Thankful for

 Thanksgiving was a special kind of day for me this year.  Two days before Thanksgiving, I was driving home with my daughter after picking her up from her winter sports training at her high school (45 minutes from home).  It was already dark out.  The drive, long and tedious with bumper to bumper traffic most of the way made me very frustrated.  Then about ten minutes from home, at a red traffic light my daughter and I watched a biker cruise through, disregarding the red light.  Granted, bikers do not have to stop at red lights, but you'd imagine this biker clad in black biker attire from head to toe, would be careful.  He whizzed through to the opposite lane and a huge truck came to a screeching halt to avoid hitting him.  Sadly, a black car right behind the bus did not see the biker and hit him.  My daughter and I had our heads glued to the headrests of our seats, as we had called it moments before the accident happened.  The front wheel of the bike shattered, the biker slammed into the windshield of the black car and fell to the ground in a fetal position.  It was horrific.  A few moments later, the biker got up and walked to the driver, a woman, who came out of her car and looked frantic.  Seeing that the biker seemed alright, (I'm hoping he continued to be after we drove away.  With accidents like this one never knows if there are latent internal injuries), but I felt more sorry for the woman who hit him.  she was driving in her lane at a decent speed and for this to happen to her out of nowhere....I really felt for her.
Anyway, the point is that life is fleeting.  Nano-seconds can make a difference between life and death.  It made me think of my problems as laughing matters in comparison.  I feel I have a lot to be thankful for.
The incident certainly stirred many feelings and I'm sure I'll find reason to use it in one of my stories.
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Green Thumb-less

I am terrible with plants.  Never had any luck with keeping them alive long enough.  In the past whenever I was gifted a plant, I shipped it straight to my parent's house where my Mom, a true green thumb, took care of it.
This continued for several years, until I hit upon one success story that turned my gardening experience around.

Three years ago, my son, then three, decided to join his sisters in celebrating teacher-appreciation week.  My son attended a weekly class at a farm, where the children sang, played in rice filled tubs and then went out to see the farm animals.  It was fun because Miss Jodie, his teacher was very good.

My daughters' school had a theme for each day for teacher appreciation week. 
The first day's theme was a card, the second a flower and so on.  The third day was a fruit.  My girls decided on pineapples.  When we bought some for their teachers, we got one for Miss Jodie and one pineapple for home.

In writing, many ideas come to mind from unlikely sources and this is the same for the idea that popped into my head as the pineapples sat on my counter-top.  How could I grow a pineapple?

Now this is me, the person who has no luck in keeping clover alive, deciding to grow something as majestic as a pineapple.

I went on-line and discovered that the process for growing  pineapples was deceptively easy.  I have to tell you.  I was very skeptical, but it's been three years now and I have an amazing pineapple plant that I grew at home.  It stays on my deck in the summer and I bring it indoors for the rest of the year.

The 'pineapple' encouraged me to introduce more plants into my life. And to try novel ideas in my writing. I have since acquired more indoor plants, and planted two more pineapples. They all keep me company in the gloomy winter months.

I'd like to share how I planted the pineapple, because it remains an inspiration.  In writing as, in gardening, all it takes is one successful idea and  you take it from there.

Here's what you need:

-A pineapple from your produce section at the grocery store. Choose one with a healthy looking crown of green.
-Potting soil
-A medium pot ( you could transfer the plant to a large pot eventually, after a year or so)
-A shallow bowl
-A large serrated knife.  I used one from the kitchen.
-A tablespoon
- Water

Place the knife two inches down from the top of the pineapple.  Cut across the top of the fruit so that you have the crown of green leaves and a small section of fruit.  You know you have the right part of the pineapple if you could place the cut section in a bowl and it stands up on its own. This is all you need for your plant.  You can eat the rest of the pineapple.

With the spoon, carve out as much as possible,of the fruit flesh that is under the green crown.  You will end up with a hollowed out cap of pineapple with a green crown.

Stand your hollowed cap in a shallow bowl and add water.  Make sure the water covers the entire cap part of the pineapple.  

Change the water in the bowl twice a day for two days.

On the third day place the cap/crown in potting soil and water it in the center of the green cap.

Water in the center every day for a week.  

Once you start to see new growth of green from the center of the crown ( after a week to 10 days), you can move to watering the center once every three days.

In farm grown pineapples, a pineapple fruit starts to form after two years.  But this is not the case with home grown pineapples.  My largest pineapple plant is three feet tall and three years old with no fruit. 

"Don't be in a horrry," George said.  George works for the pest control company we hire year round.  He's from Jamaica and comes over every quarter to spray ant repellents and the like.
"The pineappul plant grows only one fruit then dies.  So no horry no horry on the fruit," he says each time he sees my plant.  "Enjoy the plant."

And you too.  Enjoy the plant!

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Get the Facts Straight

Before school started a few weeks ago, I sat my children down for our usual motivational talk.  "This is a new school year.  I want you to do your very best.  I am very proud of you."  And so on.

When I was done, my daughter asked me if I was going to do the "They're coming" incident this year too?

The "they're coming" incident went like this:

Towards the end of the last school  year.  I woke up in the morning and panicked.  My alarm had not gone off and the carpool for my daughters was due in 10 minutes.  I scrambled up the stairs, banged my eldest daughter's door down saying "They're coming!  They're coming!"

When I finally opened the door to her room, my daughter sat up saucer eyed and asked "Who's coming?"

"Them!" I said in desperation.  "Get up!"  In my panic I had even forgotten the names of the wonderful people who help me out in the morning pick up so I do not wake my younger sons early in the day.

Now fully awake and up, my daughter said.  "It's Sunday, Mom."

And indeed it was.  "Oh my gosh!  Please go right back to sleep honey," I said.

"Yeah really  mom!" my younger daughter hollered from the next room.  "I think we are both too awake now to go back to sleep.  Thanks Mom!" 

Needless to say, it was quite embarrassing.  My daughters told me later that they were quite worried by who "they" were.  They were not sure whether to hide or run for cover.

Just like in writing, I should have checked my facts.  

Later, I did some research.  Apparently, certain alarm clocks have a green time display light for week days and a red time display light for weekends.

I have not bought this new alarm clock, but on days when I wake up worried about time...I now check the calendar before reacting.

Live and Learn.