Things I Didn’t Miss on Vacation

I went to sunny, hot Florida for ten days to escape wet, cold Oregon.  There were quite a few things I didn’t miss. I didn’t miss the rain. I didn’t miss the sub-80-degree weather.  (80 is God’s perfect temperature; just sayin’.) Didn’t miss the cats me-yowling for breakfast. Okay.  Maybe just a teeny.  Gosh, I did kind of miss the cats, I guess.  Maybe I should list the things I missed, now that I am PATENTLY no longer on vacay. So . . . Um . . . There has to be something . . . Jeeves!  I missed my butler-alarm-clock.  Seriously, if you haven’t been woken up by the mellifluous voice of Stephen Fry as your own personal butler (Excuse me, madam, but the Washington Post rang, again . . .), then you have not lived.  I’m sure you Read more…

Finding the Write Rules

Editor Cheryl Kline challenged writers of children’s literature to post or at least ponder their guiding lights for writing (on her non-eponymous blog, chavelaque.blogspot.com).  I love a challenge, so here goes! My Advice to Me, Myself and I Write because you must. When I was younger, an actor/director told me there was only one excuse for being in theatre: because you’d be miserable doing anything else.   Let your characters say what they need to say, how they need to say it. One of my most recently-met characters insisted on reporting (past) conversations in “scripted” form instead of as bits of quotation-marked dialog.  I let her have her way in this one area, and it must have really given her some confidence, because she’s the biggest bossy-pants I’ve ever written.  If I’d insisted upon quotation marks, I might never have Read more…

Happy Birthday, Bill

Ah, William.  You heart-breaker.  You shameless flirt.  You had me at “the quality of mercy is not strained.”  I mean, how’s a seven-year-old supposed to resist language like that?  And here’s the thing: no one saw it coming.  Mom and Dad figured I wouldn’t notice you, probably counted on our age difference as something that would steer me clear of you–maybe even send me down for a nap. But no. From the first moment, from, “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad,” I was yours heart and soul.  From there it was but a short step to, “for you, I would be trebled twenty times myself.”  Ah, me, Will Shakespeare.  You captured my affections before I knew I had any to bestow. Did you know I tried to give my daughter your birthday?  And when she insisted Read more…

drink of the gods

If someone had walked up to me this morning and said, “You are going to spend ten minutes making yourself a mug of hot cocoa,” I probably would have responded with something like, “Dude.  Two words.  Swiss Miss.  Two more.  Thirty seconds.”  (Or maybe it’s Carnation brand we usually keep on hand?) In any case, the [insert brand name here] that we usually keep on the shelves was GONE when I felt the cocoa cravings.  Ohnoes!  It’s cold and rainy and I absolutely, positively need cocoa!  The cold and rain put me off making a run to the grocery store or [insert coffee shop name here.] But wait!  The internet will save me!  I googled around a bit and found a recipe here that looked promising and freely adapted it to suit my preferences, the amount I required, and what Read more…

Who’s Cidney?

If you know me, personally, you’ll know me as Cindy, or maybe Cynthia.  So who’s Cidney?  Well, when I was little, I had a friend who couldn’t manage to pronounce my name correctly.  She called me Cidney all year, and I liked it.  I was only five, and it didn’t occur to me that I could require everyone to address me as Cidney, or I would have. Tee hee!  Enter the need for an easily-googled pen name.  Go ahead and google Cynthia Swanson.  Or Cindy Swanson.  Or CJ Swanson.  Wow!  There’s a lot of me out there!  Who knew I also ran PepsiCo or made cool art? Use your kindergarten nickname, said a tiny little voice inside.  Now, being a writer, I don’t run the other way when the voices start talking.  I listen.  I take notes.  I write tomes.  Read more…

Thoughts on MATCHED

So, if THE GIVER had a baby with UNWIND whilst living as a resident in the Capitol of Panem, it would look like MATCHED. (You have to suspend your disbelief on soooo many levels regarding Lowry’s and Shusterman’s novels to imagine this . . .) There’s a lot of buzz about MATCHED being the next great thing to give to your students/library patrons/kids/selves who loved THE HUNGER GAMES. I don’t exactly buy that particular sell. Okay, I did buy the book, so I guess I believed or wanted to believe. But if you are looking for the kind of heroine you loved in Katniss, or the kind of adventure the 74th annual Hunger Games provided, it ain’t gonna be found in MATCHED. This heroine takes her time to put on her big-girl panties and play hard ball. It feels real, Read more…

Thoughts on MOCKINGJAY

I really wanted to like Mockingjay. No, to put it more accurately, I wanted to finish the book and be utterly satisfied with the outcome of Katniss’ life. Because, along with so many of you, I’d grown to care deeply for the feisty teen. I wanted her to take out Snow (and Coin as well.) I wanted her to have a profound happily-ever-after with one of the boys she loved. I was even willing to be persuaded one way or the other although I leaned towards self-sacrificing Peeta just a bit. I wanted Prim to grow up to be an herbalist and healer. I wanted Buttercup fat and happy, Haymitch back on the wagon for good, and a cherry on top, please. So did I like it? Did the novel, in fact, satisfy? If you’ve read the novel, you know Read more…

Peeta Bread

Hmmm. Where’d summer disappear? Well, the good thing about nearing the end of summer is that MOCKINGJAY is releasing soon. Are you one of the people who still has HUNGER GAMES on their too-be-read list? This is a great week to start reading. Although next week would be better. And plan to take the day off because once you sit down with the first book, there’s no getting up for any non-essential activities. In fact, it would be best if you just bought or borrowed all three books at once. But I’m not here today to discuss the meritorious nature of Collins’ books. Rather, I present you with a recipe: a small homage to Peeta Mellark, that savior of all things Katniss. In the novel, the bread is described as stuffed with raisins and nuts. My version is made with Read more…

Show, Don’t Tell

I picked up a 1996 Newberry Honor Book after reading an interview with the author who had just published a fourth book in the series begun with The Thief (Megan Whalen Turner, Greenwillow, 1996.) Not a very inspired title, I thought, and the cover art on my library-borrowed edition gave nothing away. I got drowsy reading three successive nights in a row, forcing myself to make it through to the chapters’ ends before turning off my light. And I rarely get drowsy reading. Still, I liked some of the quirks of the main character, and the book had been given a prestigious award, right? I’m glad I stuck with it. This is a story where things that you learn at the book’s end force you to reconsider (and in my case, re-read) everything you thought you’d understood. The technique, done Read more…

Cutting Hair

I did it. I went back to the pixie-short cut you can see on the right. After years of ponytailing and pulling the bundle of blond out of the turtleneck, I did it. And it feels GREAT! Honestly, what was I thinking, having thick, long hair in a climate like that of the Willamette Valley? Nothing ever really dries here, ya’ know? So now I can dry this head o’ hair in about 5 minutes, tops. WOW! Which means: more time for what I love! Books! Baking! This week I’m reading The Nineteenth Wife set both in 1875 and the present. The dual-story keeps you from getting bored. I’m enjoying the multiple narrative techniques as well. The writer uses court depositions, diaries, pages from the Internet, and the first person narrative of the main character, a twenty-something boy/man. Still not Read more…