Some of you may have heard that our beloved Phyllis Diller disappeared last week.
It looked as though she had run away when our yard service came and had the gate open. If she was alive and well, we were certain she would have returned to the coop. Our girls don’t really like to wander. And she’s so little, even a cat could have gotten her. After three nights away from the coop, we had given up hope.
We accepted that she would not be coming home.
On Thursday, I was working at my desk, when I heard a tap at the back door, accompanied by the loudest squawk ever uttered by any hen. I looked through the window, and low and behold, the prodigal Phyllis had returned! Not only had she returned, but in true diva fashion, she was demanding treats. We gave her some.
Where had she gone? What had she been doing? It was a mystery. The day was rainy, but Phyllis was dry. Her normally grayish white feet had taken on a pink hue. Had she gotten sore feet from walking on pavement? A long adventure on suburban sidewalks? If so, how had she remained dry?
We couldn’t figure out what had happened, but were happy to have her home.
On Friday, she disappeared again. She was gone all afternoon and did not turn up in the evening. All our birds put themselves to bed in their warm and dry coop before the sun goes down, but once again, Phyllis was absent.
We had searched the yard when she first went missing and had not found her. Our yard is not very big and has few hiding places anyway. However, when she didn’t appear Saturday morning, Walt conducted his own search. I imagine his police training came in handy, for he discovered what Hannah and I could not: Phyllis’s hideout.
Way in the back of the narrow gap between the shed and the fence, under a bit of plywood left over from when we built the chicken coup, Phyllis had built a secret nest.
(Let it be noted, I had looked under that plywood myself, but she stayed hidden, quiet and deep in the shadows. $&*@ bird.)
That is about three weeks’ worth of eggs. Walt found her trying to sit on all of them at once. Broody hens can sit on their clutch of eggs for days, not even getting up for food and water.
I haven’t conducted any chicken health classes so I suppose Phyllis can’t be blamed for not knowing that it takes a rooster and a hen to get chicks*.
But what of the reddish, pavement sore feet? Google assures me that pink feet can be a result of becoming a bit chilled. Becoming a bit chilled can be a result of staying out all night.
Apparently Phyllis and I are of the same mind when it comes to wanting spring chicks.
Meet Liza Minnelli and Apple. What have we gotten ourselves into now?
Book things. Only book things.
“Words! Words! Words!” —Eliza Doolittle (and me)
I am working on a new book, with a need to get a readable draft finished rather quickly.
Due to the aforementioned book, the Pomodoro Method has become my friend. Basically, this method dictates you work on a task for 25 minutes (or one pomodoro) then take a five minute break. After four pomodoros you take a longer break, 15-20 minutes. It has really helped to keep me from straying over to twitter when I can’t think of a word I want to use.
Any timer would work, but I use an app on my mac. I like because it puts a little countdown clock in the corner of whatever window I have open. See:
I’m finding it much easier to stay on task when I can see that I have a break coming up. I live for those breaks.
On days where I need extra help focusing, I also use the Freedom app. It locks me out of the internet for whatever predetermined time I have set. And there is no way to turn it off. You just have to wait it out. It’s a dream (and a nightmare)!
What tricks do you use to keep from getting distracted?
There is no three, only Zuul.
Last month I got to take part in my first ever public reading of Hook’s Revenge as part of a local 2014 Kidlit Debuts panel. I had a great time with Robin Herrera, author of Hope is a Ferris Wheel; Chris Struyk-Bonn, author of Whisper; and Mary Elizabeth Summer, author of Trust me, I’m Lying at A Children’s Place Bookstore in Portland.
Want to see some pictures? OKAY.
Hook’s Revenge has been available for pre-order in hardcover for some time. Some of you have asked when the e-version would be available for pre-order. The answer is now:
Hardcover buying options are linked to on my books page. Both paper and electronic versions release September 16.
Gosh, I love you.
I’m working on planning a couple of International Talk Like a Pirate Day Weekend/Book Launch parties, one in Portland and one in Salem. Locals, mark your calendars for September 19th and 20th and watch this space.
Please note: There will be costumes.
What’s on your mind?
Hey, hey, hey! Today we are In the Middle with the hilarious Jen Swann Downey, debut author of The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand. Take a look:
When Dorrie and her brother Marcus chase Moe – an unusually foul-tempered mongoose–into the janitor’s closet of their local library, they make an astonishing discovery: the headquarters of a secret society of ninja librarians. Their mission: protect those whose words get them itno trouble, anywhere in the world and at any time in history. Petrarch’s Library is an amazing, jumbled time-traveling base that can dock anywhere there’s trouble — in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition, Socrates’ Greece, or…Passaic, New Jersey. Dorrie would love nothing more than to join the society, fighting injustice with a real sword! But when a traitor surfaces, she and Marcus are prime suspects. Can they clear their names before the only passage back to the twenty-first century closes forever?
Q&A with Jen
What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?
I feel like I’m at least 71% MADE of middle grade fiction. That, toffee, hyperactivity, and water. I read so much of it as a kid. In fact, I never really stopped reading it. I didn’t set it aside for YA even during my teenage years. Honestly, I think I actively avoided so-called YA books, especially problem novels and contemporaries. I added adult books in along the way, but I never left Middle Grade behind. Perhaps because I think the best ones speak to kids and the kids in adults. And of course, the very best ones speak fluently to the adults in adults as well.
So there’s that appreciation for and familiarity with MG, but beyond that, I heartily agree with Madeline L’Engle’s well known advice, that “…if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” I think lots of kids care deeply about bigger things, and take in quite a bit from the news and adult conversations about what is going on in the world, in the broad strokes, if not the details. I remember as a kid feeling as though most adults were quite unaware of how much we kids were noticing and thinking about. I love talking to those kids.
If you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell him/her?
Oh, gosh. Well I could go back and tell 11 year old Jen that she really could start taking the school bus again because after a week, young Beth Pasquilichio has most definitely forgotten about her promise to give young Jen a black eye, but I’m not going to since it’s because of the many more months to come of NOT taking the school in order to continue avoiding Beth Pesquillichio that young Jen developed her lifelong love of walking, and got in the habit of making up stories in her head while she walked even if she never wrote them down until, um, recently.
Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?
Who does your hair? My pillow, the wind, and my six year old. Not necessarily in that order.
I could use a six year old to come do mine. Does your child take walk-ins? Thanks for being here today, Jen, and congrats on your debut!