15 October 2011

Announcing... The Princesses of Iowa Cover!


My editor finally gave me the okay on OFFICIALLY announcing my book's cover. So without further ado:

I am completely in love with it. It's been hanging out as an image on my phone for months now, but I still get excited whenever I see it. Isn't it so pretty?

You can pre-order the book in a variety of places, including indiebound, Barnes & Noble, amazon, and -- weirdly -- Overstock.com. How can it be overstocked when it doesn't even exist yet?

Apparently you can also pre-order it as an audio book, if that's your thing. And there will be an e-book version as well, closer to the date.

Huzzah! Welcome to the world for real, Book Cover.

31 August 2011

Just Call Me Ginevra*

As you know, my debut novel, The Princesses of Iowa, will be published next spring (just under the wire before the END OF THE WORLD, so, you know, that's convenient).

Anyhow, to celebrate the year leading up to -- and following -- the release of my book, I'll be joining The Debutante Ball, a group blog for debut authors which is now in its sixth year. I'll be posting every Wednesday (long-time readers of this blog, I can hear you laughing), so if you've always wished I could get my act together and post on this blog more often than once a month and/or whenever I have a burning need to make fun of something, you're in luck!

Come on over to the Ball while I get settled in, leave me some nice comments so I don't feel like a total loser, and -- best of all -- start getting to know the four other Debs in the Class of 2012!

*Ginevra King (1898-1980), noted Chicago debutante. Wealthy, beautiful, and Scott Fitzgerald totally had a crush on her. You know, JUST LIKE ME.

01 August 2011

Happy August!

"The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after."
-- Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

26 July 2011

Animals I Have Known: My Friend the Burro

In the two weeks since I last posted, this blog has gotten as many hits as it had previously gotten over the course of its entire eight-year existence. Normally, I get maybe 250 views of each entry. “How to be a Writer” has had 100 times that. I’m gratified and overwhelmed by the response, and eventually I think I’ll have more to say about the subject -- both the strangeness of viralocity, and some thoughts about why this post in particular has been so popular.

For now though, I’m going to go ahead with the post I’d originally planned to run next. I told this story to my friend Claire recently, and she told me that I should write mini-stories about the (many, many) animals in my life. Seeing as how she’s a fancy professional blogger for WBEZ, I figure I should probably follow her advice. Plus, it gives me an excuse to post pictures of adorable animals. Everyone wins!

Animals I Have Known: My Friend the Burro

I was lonely in high school. I suspect most of us were, though of course at the time I assumed everyone else was hanging out with friends and having meaningful, amazing adventures while I was sitting alone in my bedroom listening to Sarah McLachlan and drawing on my Converse All-Stars. I spent a lot of time driving around in my car (an awesome Renault Alliance), smoking cigarettes and listening to music. For the most part, I stuck to the country roads, which rose and curved and branched in beautiful and surprising ways. I constantly sought new routes – a back way to my boyfriend’s house, a “secret” way to get home that went past an abandoned farmhouse and under an interesting viaduct. I liked the roads that took me farthest from town, where the moon glowed white on autumn cornstalks and the sky was thick with stars.

One day during my junior year, as I was meandering through the countryside, delaying for a few more miles the moment when I’d finally have to give in and go home to my parents, I saw him. It was dusk, and the sun was setting over the fields, leaving everything golden in its wake.

He stood in a little field on a corner lot, stretching his neck to reach the tall grass on the other side of the barbed wire fence. His coat was russet brown in the light.

I loved him instantly.

A few days later, I drove the same road and saw him again. He was standing in his little field, enjoying the sunshine. This time, I pulled my car over to the side of the road and walked up to his fence (a treacherous endeavor, as there was quite a deep ditch between the road and the fence). “Hi donkey,” I said. “Hi little burro.”

My grandparents lived in southern New Mexico when I was very small, and according to my grandfather, they’d actually owned miniature burros while there. (This may not actually be true. In fact, I’m guessing that it’s probably not. My family’s stories often veer into fictional territory, such as the time my father told me that my great-grandmother was part Native American. I was really excited to investigate my newfound Native Heritage until I asked my mother. “Your great-grandmother had an INDIAN PONY,” she said. “But she was NOT AN INDIAN.”)

In any case, even though they’d moved back to the Midwest shortly after I was born, my grandparents loved New Mexico and kept souvenirs around the house, including a large stuffed burro who slept on top of the quilt in the very center of their bed.

Which is to say that I was predisposed to love this burro – my own burro in Wisconsin – even before I learned to tempt him toward the fence with offerings of the long grass that grew just beyond his reach. In the afternoon light, his fur was a warm gray with a long black stripe running down his back. His ears were long and tipped with black. Though he was quite dusty, his fur was soft, particularly on his cheeks and just behind his ears. “If you were mine, I’d brush you every day,” I told him.

He nosed my hands, searching for more treats.

“I’ll call you Esperanzo,” I said, attempting to roll the R in my best Wisconsin-high-school-Spanish accent.

I visited him as often as I could, usually on afternoons when school had been particularly difficult. He came to know my car, and would trot over to the fence as soon as he saw me pulling over to the side of the road. I would scratch his neck, stroke his long soft ears, and kiss his cheeks. He would lay his head over my shoulder and allow me to hug him around the neck. Sometimes I would bring him carrots or apples, but he’d lay his head across my shoulder even on the days when I didn’t bring him anything at all.

Esperanzo was my sanctuary that year, my secret. Some days I’d drive past his field and he wouldn’t be there. He had a little shed in the far corner of his lot, in a grove of trees a ways from the road. Sometimes I would stop anyway, make the treacherous hike to his fence, and attempt to call him out of his shed and down to the fence to visit. Occasionally it worked, but more often I’d be left hanging, standing by the fence and feeling foolish. A few times, I tried petting the horse who lived on the farm down the road as a substitute, but he wouldn’t hug me like Esperanzo would, and his ears flicked too nervously for me to pet them.

I saw him less over the winter, but once the weather warmed he was back, grazing on the first shoots of grass. He remembered me, and came to the fence to lay his head across my shoulder and let me hug him around his neck. “Esperanzo,” I whispered in his long soft ears, attempting to roll my R.

One afternoon in May, Esperanzo was eating baby carrots out of my hand when a man appeared in his field. Esperanzo’s owner, I assumed, though I’d been thinking of him as my burro for so long that it was strange to be reminded that he wasn’t actually mine. “Hi,” I said awkwardly.

“Hey there,” the man said.

I wondered if I should confess my love for his burro, whether I should tell him that I’d named him Esperanzo and trained him to come to the fence to greet me. Should I suggest he maybe brush Esperanzo more often, maybe give him a bath once in a while? Should I tell him that Esperanzo preferred apples to carrots, but carrots were still better than grass? Should I tell him that my frequent visits with Esperanzo had helped me get through my junior year?

“I like your burro,” I finally said.

The man looked up, seeming surprised. “Oh, Jake?”


You have the gentlest, sweetest burro in the whole world, and you named him JAKE? Jake is a fat yellow lab. Jake is a mean boy in eighth grade study hall. Jake is a snake!

“Yeah,” the man continued, oblivious to my internal crisis. “Ol’ Jake. He’s a good little ass.”

12 July 2011

How to Be a Writer

A few weeks ago, a woman asked me for advice about her teenage daughter. “She wants to be a writer,” the mother said. “What should we be doing?”

To be honest, I was kind of stumped. (In part, I think it was the way she asked it – “What should WE be doing?” I didn’t really know what to do with that “we.”) (Also, it was quite early in the day, and I hadn’t yet had sufficient coffee to be giving anyone advice.) I suggested a few upcoming creative writing classes, but the mother wasn’t satisfied. There must be more – what else could they do?

“Well,” I said, “you know. Writers read a lot… and write a lot.”

She looked at me blankly.

“You really do have to write a lot,” I said. “I mean, that’s mostly it. You write a lot.”

The mother shook her head. “What else? Are there books she can read? Events she can attend? Writing camps?”

“Um,” I said. “Sometimes writers have writing buddies… they meet at coffee houses and write together?”

The mother liked this suggestion. “You could do that!” she told her daughter. The girl blushed.

I offered some titles of books to read. Writing Down the Bones, Wild Mind, Bird by Bird. If You Want to Be a Writer. Letters to a Young Poet. The Metamorphoses. (I know Ovid doesn’t have a lot of advice for writers; I just like to push the Metamorphoses on people. It’s a soap opera in verse!)

The mother scribbled them down. I had a feeling she’d buy them all for her daughter, perhaps before the day was over, but she still seemed to be waiting for something. I felt like I wasn’t giving her what she wanted, and though she was being really polite about it, I actually felt bad that I couldn’t come up with an answer that would satisfy her.

The feeling stuck with me all day – I chewed over her question and wondered if there was something I’d forgotten, some crucial piece of advice I could have given to placate her. But the more I thought about it, the more confused I became about why my initial answer wasn’t enough. Fact: writers write. Fact: In order to be a writer you have to write a lot. A LOT. Fact: there’s no shortcut.

(I do want to say that I think it's really great that this mother -- or any mother -- is looking for ways to actively support her kid's writing. I also imagine it might be challenging to have a kid who wants to be a writer -- it's not like you can just go out and join the Band Boosters and support your child's passion by raising money to buy new trumpets or whatever. There's no 'Poet Boosters' for parents.)

So now it’s a few weeks later and I’m still thinking about it, and I’m still a little perplexed by the question. But I’ve had some coffee, and I’m ready to take another crack at it.

What should you do to help your child pursue her dreams of becoming a writer?

First of all, let her be bored. Let her have long afternoons with absolutely nothing to do. Limit her TV-watching time and her internet-playing time and take away her cell phone. Give her a whole summer of lazy mornings and dreamy afternoons. Make sure she has a library card and a comfy corner where she can curl up with a book. Give her a notebook and five bucks so she can pick out a great pen. Insist she spend time with the family. It’s even better if this time is spent in another state, a cabin in the woods, a cottage on the lake, far from her friends and people her own age. Give her some tedious chores to do. Make her mow the lawn, do the dishes by hand, paint the garage. Make her go on long walks with you and tell her you just want to listen to the sounds of the neighborhood.

Let her be lonely. Let her believe that no one in the world truly understands her. Give her the freedom to fall in love with the wrong person, to lose her heart, to have it smashed and abused and broken. Occasionally be too busy to listen, be distracted by other things, have your nose in a great book, be gone with your own friends.

Let her have secrets. Let her have her own folder on the family computer. Avoid the temptation to read through her notebooks. Writing should be her safe haven, her place to experiment, her place to work through her confusion and feelings and thoughts. If she does share her writing with you, be supportive of her hard work and the journey she’s on. Ask her questions about her craft and her process. Ask her what was hardest about this piece and what she’s most proud of. Don’t mention publication unless she mentions it first. Remember that writing itself is the reward.

Let her get a job. Let her work long hours for crappy pay with a mean employer and rude customers. If she wants to be a writer, she’ll have to be comfortable with hard work and low pay. Let her spend her own money on books and lattes – they’ll be even sweeter when she’s worked hard for them.

Let her fail. Let her write pages and pages of painful poetry and terrible prose. Let her write dreadful fan fiction. Don’t freak out when she shows you stories about Bella Swan making out with Draco Malfoy. Never take her writing personally or assume it has anything to do with you, even if she only writes stories about dead mothers and orphans.

Let her go without writing if she wants to. Never nag her about writing, even if she’s cheerful when writing and completely unbearable when she’s not. Let her quit writing altogether if she wants to.

Let her make mistakes.

Let her stay after school to work on the newspaper, but only if she wants to. Let her publish embarrassingly personal stories in the school literary magazine. Let her spill the family’s secrets. Let her tell the truth, even if you’d rather not hear it.

Let her sit outside at night under the stars. Give her a flashlight to write by.

Let her find her own voice, even if she has to try on the voices of a hundred others first to do so. Let her find her own truth, even if she has to spin outrageous lies in search of it. Remember that her truth isn’t the same as anyone else’s truth, and that even if you were there with her when it happened, your memories of a moment will likely be vastly different from hers. Let her write thinly-veiled memoirs disguised as fiction. It’s okay if she massages past events to make a better story, or leaves entire years of her life on the cutting room floor. It’s okay if she writes about characters who have nothing to do with her life, her experience, or her world. That’s what fiction is.

Let her write poetry on her jeans and her shoes and her backpack, even if you just bought them brand new.

Keep her safe but not too safe, comfortable but not too comfortable, happy but not too happy.

Above all else, love and support her. Love her and believe in her. Love her, and let her go. In the end, your love is all that matters, and it will be enough. The rest will come from her.


Edit: In the time since I started writing this, I had dinner with a good friend from high school. We were talking about the old days, and I dragged out a journal from junior year to prove a point. “How many of those do you have now?” he asked.

Journals, 1995-2011

“Forty-two,” I said. “I have a whole bookshelf of them.”

“You should show them to people. A visual aid, to help them see how much writing practice you did.”

I thought about another friend of mine from the old days, a talented artist who used to get mad when people told him he was a talented artist. “I just draw every day,” he’d always say. “I’ve drawn every day since I was a little kid. If you drew every day for fifteen years, you would be good at it too. Anyone would.”

Mick Jagger is reported as saying, “You have to sing every day so you can build up to being, you know, Amazingly Brilliant.”

I don’t write every day. I never have. But I do write most days, and I’ve filled thousands of pages of notebook paper with writing. I swear there’s no magic trick, no simple solution, no get-writerly-quick scheme. You have to write a lot of words. You have to write your heart out. And in the end, you discover that the writing’s what matters. Writing is its own reward. I promise.

15 June 2011

How to Sell a Chicken McNugget

I almost always have the radio on in the background (I like to pretend it's because I'm such a genius that my brain can't handle doing just one thing at a time, but it's probably just leftover ADD from teaching 7th graders too long). At work, we mostly listen to XRT, at least until Jill gets fed up and yells about the state of music today and changes the station.

The only problem with listening to the radio all the time is that you begin to hear the same commercials. Over. And. Over.

Unfortunately, when I hear a commercial over and over, I start to pick it apart, and -- in short -- if it sucks, it starts to drive me insane.

Lately, that commercial is for Chicken McNuggets.

It begins with a guy describing a cool house: it has a fountain, and a giant TV, and I don't know, a fish tank for a wall or something. But, according to the dude, a cool house is NOT ENOUGH. Specifically, he's talking about having a football-watching party. Having a giant TV is NOT ENOUGH if you want to have a football-watching party, okay? Not even if you have a giant TV in a private theater! With cushy reclining chairs! It's STILL NOT ENOUGH!

No one will come to your party, the announcer argues, if you don't have a bunch of Chicken McNuggets.

In fact, the announcer specifically says that your friends will choose to attend a FOOTBALL WATCHING PARTY at the house of the dude with a small TV and lots of Chicken McNuggets INSTEAD of going to the place with the GIANT TV and PRIVATE THEATER because while one can conceivably have a TV WATCHING PARTY WITHOUT A TV, one absolutely CANNOT have a TV watching party WITHOUT CHICKEN MCNUGGETS.

McDonald's, I officially call BS on this one.

Given the choice between watching a football game on a giant TV with no Chicken McNuggets versus watching a football game on a tiny TV with lots of Chicken McNuggets, NO REASONABLE ADULT WOULD PICK THE TINY TV. Chicken McNuggets are not a deal breaker unless you're seven, and you're considering maybe not attending a girl scout field trip because they always make you choose between a hamburger and a cheeseburger when you would prefer McNuggets with your Muppet Babies Happy Meal, okay? It doesn't make you a picky eater or "difficult," it's just that you happen to prefer chicken to beef, and while you're at it, you don't actually like Orange Drink.

But we are adults now, and if we want McNuggets, we can spend the two bucks and buy them ourselves. In real life, if we had to choose between tiny TV and Chicken McNuggets or giant TV and no nuggets, we would still pick the giant TV -- unless the giant TV dude was a total asshat, in which case we'd just go to a bar anyway.

Every single time I hear this commercial -- and it's often -- I get mad at the announcer. Sometimes I try to rationalize with him; other times I just yell. Shockingly, it doesn't work. Radio Man insists on making the same specious argument. So I decided to do some research on McNugget commercials, to see if I could offer Radio Man an example from history of the correct way to market Chicken McNuggets.

And reader? I found it.

Ca. 1987, "Chicken McNugget Etiquette."

It opens with a box. See, McDonald's? You don't have to pretend people will choose a tiny TV over a giant one, you just have to show us a box.

Back in 1987, a box of 20 McNuggets would feed a family of four.
Those were leaner times. Literally!

So first, we have the announcer, who tells us the thesis of this argument: "How to eat a McDonald's Chicken McNugget 20 Piece Dinner."

I feel good about this opening. It's like the reports you write in middle school: "The title of this report is 'What Freedom Means to Me.' In it, I will tell you what freedom means to me." Solid.

Two hands please. DO NOT DROP THE MCNUGGET.

Then, we get this proto-rapper lady, proto-rapping.

Are you ready for this? It gets pretty crazy.

Proto-Rapper Lady: Get ready. Get set.
Gotta go go go, they go fast won’t last.
Getta oo(?) Hot hot on ya toes watch out 

go go hot shot big dipper little dipper
Oops slip dip
Tasty tasty McNuggets
Something(?) sauce you gotta pick
Pick ‘em up pop ‘em down go fast won’t last
Chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken McNuggets

Okay, first of all? BEST RAP EVER. Did this win an Emmy? It should have. "Hot shot big dipper little dipper" -- comparing the McNugget to the vastness of the universe? GENIUS.

And then immediately bringing it back to Earth, with humanity's yearning for intimacy ("oops slip dip")? Amazing.

And the final line -- where Proto-Rapper Lady repeats the word "chicken" five times? Internet, how could we have made fun of Rebecca Black, when she was clearly harking back to a simpler time, when you could say the word "chicken" five times in a row and it counted as a rap? Like Kane's "Rosebud," isn't "Fun fun fun fun" merely an allusion to "Chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken" -- a time when we were truly happy?

Mom can't believe her luck! McNuggets to eat!
For once she doesn't have to fake her smile!

Meanwhile, this All-American Family is teaching us about the true meaning of sharing. For example, Dads eat before Sons. Steal!

Daddies first. Yoink!

The majority of this commercial is actually shots of this family doing Crazy Eyes. In their defense, Crazy Eyes were highly regarded in the 1980s to be a sign of Excitement and Enjoyment. At least, that's what the director told me at this photo shoot:

Crazy eyes means I'm happy!

The little girl does her best with Crazy Eyed Happiness, but she ends up just shooting her eyes back and forth like she's looking for an escape. Or, knowing this family, perhaps she's wisely checking her blind spots in case one of her parents is about to sneak up and steal her one allotted McNugget.




No comment on the haircut, by the way. The 80s were hard for all of us.

The little girl gives Crazy Eyes the Ol' College Try, but then Dad steps in to show her how it's REALLY done.

Crazy Eyes?

This sequence is like America's a baby, and Dad's trying to convince us to eat our nuggets. Mmmmmm, America! Eat up, baby!

Crazy Eyes!

Sometimes I think about what an actor's agent pitched a commercial producer when they were trying to sell the actor. "He's the next Tom Hanks!"

And then the director's like "Okay, Tom Hanks, give me 'Completely psychotic for McNuggets!'"


By this time on the shoot, chaos has totally broken out, and the Mom and daughter are like "Let us try! We didn't get to do crazy at the beginning!"

The little girl is pretending the McNugget is her brother's head.

Meanwhile, of course, the Proto-Rapper Lady's Proto-Rap is finally winding down, and the McDonald's Choir comes in singing, "It's a good time for the great taste..."

Interrupted by a clapping machine and cheerleader voices (because it's a rap? I guess?): Seven six five four three two one done!

McDonald's Choir: ...of McDonald's.

And finally, the craziest eyes of all....

Director: Give me pathological!
Tom Hanks: How's this?
Director: No, give me really batshit insane!
Tom Hanks: Like thiiiiis?
Director: Give me... your rotten family ate all your McNuggets!

You eat my nuggets, I eat your eyeballs. 


And that, Mr. Radio Man, is how you sell a Chicken McNugget.

(Watch the commercial)

24 May 2011


I have some!

1. If you're halfway through your story & your plot is grinding to a halt, maybe you need to re-think your character's wants & needs. Or maybe you're just generally sort of interested in things I write. Either way, check out my article in the latest issue of The Prairie Wind.

2. If you've read Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters or Elizabeth Stuckey-French's The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady (or both!), or if you're just generally interested in things I do, you should come out to Printers Row on Saturday, June 4, and hear me attempt to ask them enough semi-intelligent questions to get a good conversation going. With authors like these, I don't think I'll have to work too hard!

3. Baby otters! That is all.

17 May 2011

A List of Things I Haven't Killed

Among several modest talents, one of which I am particularly proud is my general competence at not killing things. I might even go so far as to call it a gift. There are tons of things I haven't killed. Middle schoolers, for one. That I managed to teach 7th and 8th grade for years without killing a single child is pretty impressive, if I may toot my own horn. I've had probably close to a hundred co-workers in the last decade and a half, and I didn't kill a single one. Family members! That's a big one.... and birds! The world is full of birds I haven't killed.

You see? Plus -- and I don't want to brag or anything here, but really -- it's not even hard for me. Not killing things actually comes quite easily to me. I know.

In the last ten or so years, I have taken my gift to the next level, and begun to work on keeping things alive. I started with one jade plant, a gift from a student. Not only is it not dead, but it's thriving, and has propagated many smaller jade plants. Then a Norfolk Island Pine from my dad -- still alive. A Christmas cactus from same? Also still alive, though it's currently on a time out in the closet. Then pothos and schefflera, a money tree, a goldfish plant. Natalie started bringing plants home for me to not-kill -- an aloe, a spider plant.

(Not to mention the greyhound! She's been living with us for almost two years now, and I would like to take at least partial credit for keeping her alive all this time.)

So this year I'm attempting to take my talent to the next level, and not-kill plants outside.

Tiny baby vines

We have a fairly giant yard for the middle of the city, and for the last two years we have been talking about making it nicer. Instead, we opted to let the greyhound race back and forth and dig holes and generally destroy what little grass there was.

But this year! This year is the year that we take back the yard!

Climb, tiny vines!

In March, I got a bunch of bulbs and roots from my father, who apparently had gotten them at Costco. A few weeks later, we planted four peony bulbs in our front yard, and to this day they are still alive. Success!

Around the same time -- early April -- I bought a packet of morning glory seeds from the hardware store down the street, and planted them in adorable little seedling cups. They managed to sprout about three days before we left town for a week, and I think I freaked out our friends who were going to watch Zia when, in addition to the greyhound, I showed up with two flats of tiny seedlings and a spray bottle, and demanded politely requested they keep the tiny seedlings in the sun and maybe even water them from time to time.

That fence is just begging to be climbed

Fast-forward a month. Most of the tiny seedlings have grown into smallish plants with long creepy vines they whip around like lassos, looking for something to climb. They've been hanging out in my office and I keep having to separate them, because they keep wrapping their little limbs around each other like eighth grade girls.

Vine glamour shot

Today I'd finally had enough of constantly separating their little vines and moving them around on the desk. All right, vines, I said. Time to go outside.

Zia is unimpressed

Out we trooped, my vine babies and me, out to the chain-link fence in the front yard that's just begging to be climbed. Seven vine babies all went in the ground, seven vine babies wrapped their tiny vines around the fence, and seven vine babies nearly got crushed by Zia when a beagle in a red sweater came up to the fence to sniff us. Thanks, Zia.

While I was outside, I decided to finally throw the rest of the plants from my dad in the ground. They'd been in bags in the closet and weren't particularly happy. I have no idea if they'll live. I actually don't even know what kinds of plants they are, beyond "not peonies."

Grow, tiny seeds!

Meanwhile, in the house, there are a bunch more flats of potential seedlings -- morning glories and sweet peas. Normally I wouldn't start seedlings this late, but since it's approximately March outside, I figure it might just be starting to feel summery in a month or so, and I can drop the rest of the climbers in the ground then.

I can't wait to not-kill them.

24 April 2011

It's Not a Perfect Metaphor

Remember that movie Paddle to the Sea? You probably saw it in like third grade on a day when your teacher had a migraine and didn't want to explain the difference between a cursive capital Q and the number 2 for the seven thousandth time. In the film, a sick-but-winsome kid carves a canoe with an Indian guy in it and then drops him in the snow, hoping that one day he'll make it to the ocean, because as everyone knows, every drop of snow that falls in Canada eventually makes it to the sea.

Hey chipmunk, can you give me a push?

It occurs to me now that when I was a kid, I thought of the Indian-dude-plus-boat as a kind of Native American centaur. Not in a mystical way, like the Indian is one with his canoe!, but literally like he didn't have legs.

Also? Witness the cruel irony of his name. Paddle-to-the-Sea HAS NO PADDLES. He can't even move his arms! Damn you, sick winsome kid!

I am a victim of my own name.
Please put me in your fireplace so I can not-paddle no more forever.

So then there are a bunch of gentle adventures, like when Paddle has a snake crawl over him, which would probably be scary if you were a kid, but not if you were a wooden man who couldn't feel, or when Paddle gets caught in a whirlpool, which again would be pretty scary if you were a kid, but not if you were a wooden man who couldn't drown.

Eventually, Paddle make it to the ocean -- I just looked it up, and apparently he actually travels through all five Great Lakes and then up the Saint Lawrence Seaway to the Northern Atlantic! For some reason, I'd been imagining him traveling down the Mississippi, and for some reason that seems more credible somehow? Like really dude, I'm supposed to believe you made it through ALL FIVE Great Lakes AND through the multitude of locks, canals, and channels to go UP the Saint Lawrence all the way to Quebec? WITHOUT EVER PADDLING??

Anyway, he makes it to the ocean, I guess, and has to contend with some giant merchant ships, who, if they had Thomas the Tank Engine faces, would be having some hilarious reactions to the tiny wooden Paddle-who-can't-paddle, but which in reality basically just run him down.

Paddle makes it to the Sea! And it kind of sucks!

Finally, Paddle makes his way to the Lighthouse which apparently was his destination all along, even though you might notice that his name is not Paddle-to-the-Lighthouse. But whatever, Paddle, it's cool. You're tired, it's cold out there, you've been not-paddling a long time. We get it. The lighthouse keeper takes Paddle in, dries him off, paints his face back on, and thinks about keeping him all safe and warm in the lighthouse until he sees, carved on the underside of Paddle's legsboat, the wretched curse that will haunt Paddle to the end of his days, or until a whale finally eats him: Please throw me back in the water. So the lighthouse keeper takes him out to the cliff and unceremoniously chucks him back into the ocean. THE END.

I don't remember if we're supposed to learn any lessons in the process. Probably. Something about grit and gumption and how even if you're paralyzed and have a boat for legs, you can still achieve your dreams.

...Anyway, this post was actually supposed to be about revision, but as I think about it, Paddle to the Sea isn't really the amazing metaphor I thought it would be going into it.

Nevertheless, I'm pretty close to the day when I'll literally never have to revise this book again, and that feels pretty awesome. I owe a huge, huge, enormous debt of thanks to my editor, who keeps pulling me out of the water and painting my face back on.

And here is my lighthouse:

My book! On its way to the copy editor!

Even sweeter than making it to the sea.