First Hurdle 
Huzzah! The first draft of Short Cut! is complete!! And, I emphasize the word draft. There is much to do, like removing a lot of unnecessary words, adding more details, and working on the rhythm so it sounds good to hear. Let me know by e-mail ( if you'd like to see the draft and/or share it with your students, and I'll send it along. The final copy will look much different than this, but every book needs a start and this is it.

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Happy Halloween? 
So, I'm dressed in the old geezer outfit: a clear, crinkly mask that makes me look like a dried prune, a ratty bathrobe, white socks pulled up high, and white sneakers. My geezer lady, complete with walker and catheter bag (half-filled) and I are attending a bunco party with about 100 other costumed folks. Strangely, none of them are wearing masks. What's up with that? It doesn't take me long to find out - it's HOT under those things! And, it fogs up. And, it's hard to breathe. And, you can't eat or drink anything without taking it off. I'm wearing my glasses on the outside of the mask and I forget to remove them before taking off the mask (which I do quite frequently because I enjoy breathing), so each time I do this the glasses get launched into the air and I have to scramble to find them on the floor before someone steps on them.

After a short break for some fresh air outside, I shuffle back in and remove my mask (of course I forgot the glasses again!), but this time I can't find them. We cordon off the area, an announcement is made over the loudspeaker(making me the center of attention, which totally defeats the purpose of wearing a mask), and everyone looks on the floor, but to no avail. When the game continues I got a flashlight and continue the search, crawling around on the floor, looking under the tables, searching everywhere. Finally,in defeat, I return to playing, albeit with dimished sight.

My search continues at the next break and, having combed over every square inch of the place, decide to check outside where I had been standing. The glasses are right there on the asphalt, unscathed, where they had landed after taking my mask off.

I am estatic and exhausted, feeling very much like the old geezer I had become over the last few hours. I will be very careful about what I dress up as next time. I'm leaning toward Superman...

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Happy Halloween! 
The final day of October, a cool and rainy day here in Eugene, a day to become someone (or something) else. I shall be an old geezer, not a huge transformation at this point, but one that will provide me an opportunity to explore what is to come. Maybe I'll add a picture if I figure out how to do it.

While I wait anxiously for the hallowed time, I will get back to my work. It's going well, and I'm planning to have the rough manuscript done by the end of November. Then, time to edit and revise, which will take as long as it takes.

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Ahh, Teachers! 
Next week I will have the great and distinct pleasure of working with teachers from the Bethel School District here in Eugene. The focus will be on non-fiction writing. Although I despise the name "non-fiction" I love the genre, and prefer to call it Realia, since it's writing about real things (isn't it crazy to name something in terms of what it's not?#%!).

One of the activities we'll do is write about a teacher who influenced us at some point in our education. I have several teachers who come to mind: Mrs. Domovich, my fourth grade teacher; Mrs. Davis, my sixth grade teacher; and Mr. Glaser, my 11th grade English teacher.

Let me tell you about one of the them. Mrs. Davis was unflappable. No matter what happened she didn't get upset, didn't raise her voice. She didn't have to. There were consequences for everything - from saying "um" and "yeah" to being impolite or not doing your homework. Mrs. Davis was my sixth grade teacher. She was tall and olive-skinned, with long black hair that she kept braided. I thought she was Indian because she reminded me of Tonto, from the Lone Ranger. But she was tougher than Tonto, and the most structured teacher I have ever experienced, at a time when I needed structure the most. My father had abandoned our family that year, we were losing our home, and everything seemed to be falling apart. But when I came to school, there she was: solid and unyielding, never taking a sick day, holding each of us accountable for our actions, never letting us make excuses. She cared, I could tell, but she didn't wrap us like a blanket with it. She just stood there, erect and proud, and guided me through a very difficult year.

I had the chance to see her again, after I became a teacher, and to tell her how important she was to me. It was a good experience, one that I encourage everyone to choose. Who was an important teacher to you? Write about it. Then let that teacher know. You'll be glad you did

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Bad News / Good News 
Sorry to say I didn't make it to the mountains to walk the trail of the Lost Wagon Train over the weekend. Winter has come early to the Cascade Mountains and, with it, the snow. There may still be a chance to get up there this fall, but it's doubtful. I'll probably have to wait until early next summer. That's a lonnng time to wait! In the meantime, I keep working on the book.

On the good news front, I had the pleasure this week of working with some budding illustators at Dorena School outside of Cottage Grove, Oregon. As I read one of my stories, the kids sketched illustrations, then shared with the group. Creativity and enthusiasm filled the room, and I left impressed and inspired.

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Start. Stop. Start. Stop. That's the way things have been going, mainly because I haven't selected a point-of-view and voice for the Lost Wagon Train story. But now I have! After trying several different ways, I'm going ahead with the 11-year-old boy point of view. While it limits the story to the knowledge of the teller, it sounds less expository and allows the reader to become closer to the story. It's more immediate, too, and emotional. The challenge will be the ending, but that's thirty pages away. In the meantime, one page at a time, one paragraph at a time, one sentence at a time, and, know where this is going. It's the truth, though.

I'm headed back to the mountains in a few days to walk along the wagon trail and help mark it for others to explore. I'm sure it will add more fuel to the writing fire.

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Where Has Summer Gone? 
What started out as a simple revision process for the A.C. Gilbert book turned into much more. It seems like when I got into it, I had to go over every sentence. That's right, "had to." At least that's how it felt. Going back and making changes to a manuscript "completed" a few years back requires a great deal. You have to try to remember why you left something in as well as why you left something out, why you used one word instead of another, why you decided to expand one area rather than another. It's a good exercise for writers, but brain-draining.

In the end, the hope is that the text is better. In the case of this manuscript, I am certain of that. Is it good enought to attract a publisher? That's another matter. All I can do is my best, and I know I have. The next step is to copyedit for little details, then print it out and send it off. I already have a list of publishers to whom I plan to sent it.

I am rarin' to get back to my wagon train story, so now I'll be able to totally immerse myself in that. The way this summer evaporated reminds me of when I was a kid and it seemed like summer was just getting going when we had to go back to school!

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On The Trail 
Spent a day out on the Free Emigrant Road, and it was awesome! I went with Del Spencer, a man who has been studying this trail for 35 years. He is a library of information and stories, and I'm glad I remembered my tape recorder. We traveled 20 miles east of Oakridge, OR to Rigdon Meadows, the place where the Lost Wagon Train was camped when the rescuers reached them. Then we took off on an unimproved road to another part of the trail, The Chute, where the wagons had to carefuly negotiate a steep hill. Listening to Del, I could actually picture the long line of wagons slowly making their way through the mountains.

It was a great day, and it has inspired me to explore the story through writing. Currently, I am experimenting with different voices with which to tell this story. The jury is still out.

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Sitting, NOT! 
The revised A.C. Gilbert book is finished, so I'm sharing it with a few trusted people to get some constructive feedback before I move forward by sending it out to publishers. I like to let it sit a few weeks before looking at it with "fresh" eyes. The manuscript is sitting, but I'm not. I'm sending out queries for the wolf book, and I'm researching the Lost Wagon Train story. Next week I'll visit the trail the train used in 1853. Looking forward to it.

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Okay, so I spent most of this morning working on three paragraphs. That's the way it goes sometimes. The paragraphs had already been written; I was just trying to improve them. Take out a word here, add a word there. Slow going, but well worth the hours. This is a picture book, so each word is important. The shorter the book, the less room for error. That's why I think picture books are the hardest of all books to write. In any event, progress is being made.

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