Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A late welcome to 2011--I'm back on track!

   This post has been a long time coming! 
     Blogging "eighteen" took the back seat to real life which included adopting another amazing rescue puppy who, uh hem, chose to blog her experiences adjusting to life at the Bowdens'.

That's me holding Layla on top of Annie in October. Their sizes are now reversed.

         I no sooner started eighteen-til-die when the family calendar filled up with irresistible activities that could inspire both sitcom and and heartwarming drama. Tux fittings. Finding something for me to wear to--oh, did I mention our second daughter's wedding was one year and one month after her older sister's wedding? Thus, a dress for me to find (for me.) Tux fittings for the father of the bride and the youngest groomsman. Bridal photos. 
The shower. Packing for the out of town wedding. Boarding Annie and Layla. Creating a festive hotel hospitality room, aka our room. The arrival of relatives. Yay!

The bride and flower girls at the wedding venue, the UT Austin Alumni Center

 And another fantastic family reunion in the hills of Austin...
The Family Tree missing a few members, including me

Of course there was Christmas and, earlier, Thanksgiving-- a very happy full house and puppies running around.

Birth sisters Ellie Wynn and Layla Bowden

    AND then came the event that really prohibited getting back on track with all-things-novel-writing. My mother's heart attack at the tail end of 2010. (She came through it like a champ!)

    I spent the first two weeks of 2011 in Chicagoland. Talk about research for a novel. I thoroughly explored life in the ICU and nursing homes. I cleaned and redecorated my mom's apartment in her retirement for her eventual homecoming. I drove in the snow.  I photographed snow.

   I figured out that layering up in cold winter weather is the best way to stay warm when the temp gets down to single digits. I quickly remembered, how while in Houston, you wear a sweater indoors in the summer so you won't freeze in the air conditioning and, how indoors in Chicago in the winter, you peel off your clothes indoors so you don't melt indoors in extreme heat. Surely antiperspirants sell better during the winter months in the northern United States. And I proved this: Chicago is dryer than Houston--no frizzy hair (but lots of static.)

   I made friends with a darling friend of my mom, an amazing first generation American who told me stories of her family's arrival from Italy that must be written down or fictionalized. My mom's stories about growing up in rural Illinois and moving to the Big City after high school graduation are inspiring too.

   I stared down at the beautiful, snow covered garden from my mom's second floor nursing home window, and realized it was the last place my kids visited with my dad before he died. It gave me an intriguing idea for another young adult novel, something completely different from anything I've ever thought of writing.

The window of my mom's room

The garden, mid-day

The garden, late afternoon

The garden, at night

    Which brings me right back to where I was on December 30th, 2010, the day I got the call (about the heart attack.)  I planned to get back on track, reconnect with my favorite critique partners and finish polishing the book. After Thanksgiving, in the middle of all this comotion, I got the call--it finaled in the YA category of The Emily, West Houston RWA's annual writing contest! The first twenty-three pages of my novel had been sent to an agent and an editor for final judging.

   The awards are February 12th, and I won't hold my breath--my novel is realistic YA fiction, not vampires or werewolves or anything supernatural. My competition is--whoa!--fellow unpublished authors I respect.
Nevertheless, the way I look at it, I'm a winner, no matter what. I entered The Emily to get anonymous feedback on the project when I was in doubt. Finaling is far beyond my wildest expectations. I'm honored.

   So a whole month later than expected and not a penny richer (except in experience,) I have begun completion of a novel that began as little nuggets of ideas in Laurie Campbell Schnebly's on-line writing class "Plot Via Motivation" a year ago this month--ideas that systematically formed a plot that's held me captive for an entire year!

Wish me luck! No, wish me writing time! :)

(www. laylastail. blogspot. com  No spaces!) 


  1. Hey girl! I am glad to see you back. Your daughter looked BEAUTIFUL on her wedding day. yesterday I gave you a shout out on my blog http://theendingunplanned.blogspot.com/2011/02/paying-it-forward-and-saying-thanks.html
    Have a great Writing Day!

  2. I'm happy to be back--thanks, Rachel! And I am honored that you mentioned me on your blog!