It's been a month since I went anywhere but the doctor. I feel fortunate that it's not winter, so I can occasionally lie down outside and not get cabin fever. Will I miss being pregnant? Seems impossible right now, but I'm trying to appreciate the good parts of pregnancy and bedrest: feeling the squirming and nudging inside me, having time alone...and I sit with my fingers on the keyboard trying to think of anything else but I'm stumped. A twins pregnancy is so much more intense, so much more physically disabling than my other two. I never imagined. And it's crazy, knowing that any day I'm going to have two wee bairns to look after and yet be shackled to the couch and unable to prepare. Free me!
Happily I have a major distraction: trying to finish Midnight in Austenland before babies. The countdown is almost audible, tick, tick, tick... I'm working on what may be the final draft now. This is a trimming draft, as is often the case with the final. I have a couple dozen other changes to look out for as I go through, but mostly I'm trying to weed out the unnecessary. It's amazing what I can delete when it's my first priority. Suddenly words, sentences, paragraphs, pages that had seemed essential are now kindling. I've cut 3500 words so far. It feels great. The trick is to make sure you don't cut any essential storytelling bit or leave a scene feeling choppy. I'm grateful I had this book to work on during pregnancy and bedrest. I don't think I could've done a first draft like this, and it's not easy typing while lying on my side. (Did I mention that everything aches?) But I need a project to keep me from feeling hopeless. I would have gone crazy watching TV all day. Slowed down as I am, it's good to have work.
Blah blah blah...so sick of bedrest...blah blah...body hurts everywhere conceivable...blah....can't breathe...blah...
My sister makes baby car seat covers, and she made a complimentary set for my gals. She does all the stitching by hand and designs custom icons for each. They're beautiful. Rather than do cupcakes or flowers or cute animals, she thought monsters just felt right for our family.
Pokadot with reversible stripes.
Detail of Beastie 2. This one is on striped fabric with reversible pokadots. I'm amazed by her skill. I'm so hopeless with thread and fabric and if I designed something from scratch it would be a disaster. I love to see the different ways we all find to express our creativity. It keeps us sane, no? I think everyone needs a creative outlet to stay sane, but perhaps no one needs it as desperately as stay-at-home mothers.
Dean is playing with a program on his computer where he types in sentences and the computer reads it aloud, to entertain the children. I just heard the mechanical computer voice say, "When the sun turns cold and your bodies turn to dust, I will still be here." As I was typing that, it said, "Do you know what I do when you are sleeping? You don't, do you? That's good." I wish there was a time when I was sleeping. Blah blah blah...can't sleep...blah blah...night is an endless nightmare...blah...how my body aches...blah...
Now the computer says, "Gonna et you all up till dere's nuffin left." That reminds me. I haven't eaten in two hours. Time to get back to work feeding the brood.
Scylla and Charybdis in my belly here aren't my only work in progress. I'm trying to finish up Project Incubator and Project Midnight in Austenland at the same time. Here's the prologue for the latter:
No one who knew Charlotte Constance Kinder since her youth would suppose her born to be a heroine. She was a practical girl even from infancy, only fussing as much as was necessary and exhibiting no alarming opinions. Common wisdom asserts that heroes are born from great calamity, and yet our Charlotte’s early life was pretty standard. Not only did her parents avoid fatal accidents, they never once locked her up in a hidden attic room.
At the very least, she might have been a tragic beauty. Though she eventually grew into her largest inheritance (her nose), she was never the sort of girl who provoked men to do dangerous things. She was...nice. Even her closest friends, many of whom liked her a great deal, couldn’t come up with a more spectacular adjective. Charlotte was nice.
Eventually Charlotte met a nice man named James, whom she was convinced she loved passionately. They had a very nice wedding and two children who seemed perfect to their mother and adequate to everyone else. After raising them to the point that they no longer needed her constant vigilance to stay alive, Charlotte wondered, what now? That’s when Charlotte Constance Kinder, who was nice, discovered that she was also clever.
She started a web-based business, grew it to seven employees, then sold it for an embarrassing profit. With Lu and Beckett in elementary school, she had time, so why not start another? Her retirement fund was flush. She gave to charities. She bought James a Jaguar (the car, not the cat--he was allergic to cats) and took the kids on cruises. Charlotte was content--toes-in-the-sand, cheek-kiss, hot-cocoa-breath content. Her childhood dreams had come true: husband, family, success. She wonderfully, blissfully, ignorantly reflected that life just couldn’t get any better.
Until it didn’t.
We may never know what turned once-nice James away. Was it the fact that his wife was making more money than he was? (A lot more.) Or that his wife had turned out to be clever? (That can be inconvenient.) Had Charlotte changed? Had James? Was marriage just too hard to maintain in this crazy, shifting world?
Charlotte hadn’t thought so. But then, Charlotte had been wrong before.
She was wrong when she assumed her husband’s late nights were work-related. She was wrong when she blamed his increasingly sullen behavior on an iron deficiency. She was wrong when she believed the coldness in their bed could be fixed with flannel sheets.
Poor Charlotte. So nice, so clever, so wrong.
Charlotte came to believe that no single action kills a marriage. From the second it begins to fail, there are a thousand shots at changing course. She invested her whole soul in each of those second chances that failed anyway. It was like being caught in her own personal Groundhog’s Day, only without the delightful Bill Murray to make her laugh. She woke up, marveled anew at the bone-crushing weight in her chest, dressed in her best clothes as if for war, and set out with a blazing hope that today would be different, today James would remember he loved her and come home to the family. Today she would win her marriage, and her life, back again.
Eventually the day came when Charlotte sat in the messy ruins of her marriage and felt as weak as a cooked noodle. She would never be nice or clever enough. Hope had been beaten to death. She dried her eyes, shut down her heart, and plunged herself into an emotion coma. So much easier not to feel.
Once numbness takes over a damaged heart, a miracle is required to restart it. Things would prove rough for our heroine. The only hope to pull her out again was Jane Austen.
I just love you people! I'm so grateful that you express your opinions in a respectful way and that this blog doesn't have to become another place of hatred and flaming. Instead of covering our ears and humming so we don't have to hear anyone else's opinion, I love that we can both express and listen. Most issues are complicated and most of the time I can see both sides. Book banning, selecting books for public school curriculum, deciding what a room full of teens are or aren't ready for--these are often complicated issues. But you know what isn't? Calling a book like Speak, which deals honestly and non-graphically with rape, pornography. I draw the line there, people! I shout foul! And I bleed for all the survivors out there who have to deal with this attitude in real life. Speak up, girls! We've got your back.
So I'm 36 weeks, a huge milestone. Even if I went into labor tonight (no please) our babes have a great chance of avoiding the NICU. I want those girls. I want them already. They're so quiet inside my belly, so hidden, a jumble of pokey parts that jab me and move around. Mysterious. I want the realness, the babyness, the tangible parts. I want the smells and the skin to kiss and the milk breath and the silky soles of their feet. I want the crying that (hopefully) stops when I hold them and snuggle them and help them feel safe. I want to see the baldness or hairy heads, the eye shapes and marvelous noses, the little lips for me to kiss like flower petals. I want my babies!
But not yet. Maybe in another week. They could use some more fattening up. Like Hansel's witch, I've felt their boniness through my skin and find them too skinny still. Eat more first, my pretties. Here, have some pie.
I appreciate all the comments from the last post and there's a little more I want to add. There is no book that can't be challenged, no book that someone won't find offensive. I bet you English teachers have some stories you could share about that. It's everyone's right to respond how they will to a book, but banning the book means preventing not just yourself or your child from reading it but everyone else at the school or library as well. By the way, to clarify for some of the commenters, when a school remove a challenged book from the curriculum and/or from the library shelves, that is banning.We tend to ban contemporary young adult books far more than the classics, not because their subjects are more offensive (are Shakespeare's and Steinbeck's characters model citizens?) but because they're newer and don't have the decades of vetting to protect them yet. Which is such a shame because reluctant readers especially are far more likely to actually read a book written in their vernacular.
"I remember reading Speak. I had taken a copy out from the library and read it cover to cover. Often, I stop and shut the book when I get to the last page of the story -- but this time I did not. The very last page of the book should have been a blank page, but it was covered in writing. The girls and women who had checked the book out before me had filled it with messages: "This happened to me." "I didn't tell." "I thought he loved me." They told their stories in single sentences. Their rapists and abusers were their boyfriends. Their family members. Strangers. Someone they thought was a good guy but turned out not to be. Or the story they told was not theirs. It was their sister's or friend's. I read that page, and I was filled with sadness that this was the only place they felt safe to use their voice. I went to the internet and grabbed the number for a local sexual assault crisis line and added it to the page. It was the only way I could think of to reach out them."
What a powerful testament. Here's to books.
In case you missed it, here's a discussion we had about book banning a few months ago.
Still pregnant! Sorry I didn't post yesterday. I guess I was taking a day of rest.
I am in no uncertain terms shocked and disgusted by a recent challenge to a young adult book. Sometimes with challenged books I can sort of see their point, even if I don't agree. This instance is just so wrong, I want to SPEAK up about it.
In an opinion piece in a Missouri newspaper, a university associate professor challenges three books read in local high school English classes. I haven't read the other two so won't chime in on those ones, but one of them is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, a book I admire tremendously. It is gorgeously crafted, smart, and powerful. The most shocking part is he says it should "be classified as soft core pornography."
Oh my. Have we come to this? Will people really listen to this guy? An editor's note at the end of the article says that the other two books he mentioned have already been pulled or are under review. Let me clarify for those of you who haven't read Speak: it's about rape. A high school girl is raped. Rape, people. Pornography is "designed to stimulate sexual excitement." I am extremely sensitive to depictions of rape. I have turned off movies and put down books that even remotely crossed the line for me. Speak was not one of those. It's not graphic, it is definitely not designed to titillate. It is honest while being respectful. If someone reads that book and is stimulated by it, then they should SEE A THERAPIST.
This might be funny if it weren't so tragic and dangerous. This attitude is precisely what keeps girls silent when they should be speaking up, what makes them afraid of reporting rape, what lets perpetrators get away. Please, please don't confuse the issue. Rape is rape is rape. It is not sex. It is not sexy. It is violence. It is always wrong. Classifying this book as a kind of pornography is so insulting and damaging to survivors of rape. Ee gads. I'm so upset I'm contracting just thinking about it. Deep breaths, Mama.
As is so often the case, protests against books say more about the protester than the book. I'm keenly aware of this whenever I can't stand a book that others adore. What does that say about me? What am I expecting, hoping for? Reading is such great self-examination. I wonder if this professor will be conducting any self-examination. I wonder what he'll discover about himself. I wonder if he'll get help.
Veronica Roth had an interesting Christian response to this, as the book banner is a Christian, and also links to other blog posts if you're interested.
Just saw this: City Weekly, the alternative newspaper here in Utah, does the Artys awards each year, honoring Utahns in the arts essentially. I got a custom award this year!
Best Prolific Scribe
Award-winning Utah author Shannon Hale’s released her latest book, graphic novel Calamity Jack, back in January and has no books set for release until 2012, but she’s stayed busy: On her blog she tackles censorship, book-rating systems, morals in literature and more, inviting fellow authors, librarians, parents and readers to join in the discussion. Hale dissects the controversial issues with tact, but is frank in expressing her own opinions, giving readers plenty of food for thought about the changing landscape of literature. Oh, and Hale crafts these blog posts while working on two novels, caring for two young children and being pregnant with twins.
This is the first time I've been recognized officially for my blogging. I've been blogging for eight years this fall. That kind of blows my mind. I never imagined when I did my first post that nearly eight years later I'd be blogging about bedrest with twins. My oh my! How little we control our own lives.
When I was first working on the goose girl, the publisher Del Rey had an online workshop. You could post the first chapter of your book and people would read it and give you feedback, and you'd read other people's chapters to return the favor. It was a pretty cool site. I posted my first chapter and along with other feedback, more than one person reacted to the aunt calling newborn baby Ani "my little fat one." They thought it sounded rude that a person would use the word "fat" on a baby. I didn't understand why, but just in case I was missing something I changed the word to "chubby." When I reposted the chapter a few months later, three new people read it and reacted negatively to "chubby." Feeling self-conscious, I cut that line altogether.
Several drafts later, I went, wait a minute. What's wrong with those people? Why can't a baby be fat? Why shouldn't that be a good thing? I love fat babies. Babies should be fat. They're healthy. They're putting on layers of fat to get them through the most amazing growth spurt in human history. Those people are crazy! I put the fat line back in.
Since then I've noticed some mothers reacting defensively if I compliment them on their "fat baby." "What a gorgeously chubby baby!" I exclaim. "Her doctor says she's healthy" or "He's thinning out some" might be the response. I've learned and tried to temper my exclamations. Reluctantly. I'm ashamed of us if we're so paranoid about weight gain that we can't praise fat babies. Thigh rolls and elbow dimples are poetry. Round bellies and padded bums are glorious. Fat babies rock!
I was thinking about this today after posting on twitter/facebook "3rd week in a row the babes have gained half pound each but my weight remains unchanged. PARASITES! LEECHES!" Several people responded with confusion. Was I implying that I actually wanted to gain weight? Um...yes. Of course. I mean, I'm pregnant. With twins. If my babies are gaining weight but my overall weight remains unchanged, then they're leeching the pounds off my fat stores, or possibly muscle and organs. There's a reason women gain weight when we're pregnant. We NEED it. Fat stores are pretty important if you're going to nurse. Muscles and organs, in my experience, are also good. Generally speaking.
Hey, we have issues with weight. Of course obesity isn't a good thing, and the goal as adults should be to maintain a healthy weight (whatever that might be). But we go to such extremes. One day in the supermarket I spotted three separate magazines all offering the same cover story "Jessica Simpson gains ten pounds!" True. The cover story. Journalism! I read recently (rumor, may not be true) that Megan Fox is losing her hair, due to poor nutrition and extreme dieting. Because we expect our celebrities to be crazy thin. Which, like obesity, is not healthy.
I want to stand up for those of us who should be fat. Babies! Preggos! Unite and embrace your size!
I went to the doctor today, so actually got dressed. I was so uncomfortable the whole time, wearing the only pair of pants that still (I thought) fit me. But they were so tight on my belly I was having trouble breathing and my belly ached extra much. I couldn't wait to get home and take them off! And when I did I realized...it wasn't the pants. My belly was telling me in no uncertain terms, I cannot stretch any farther. This is it, baby.
Why do I feel so ponderous? (Dean keeps calling me ponderous. I've started correcting him: "You mean majestic.") Just how different is the twins belly than the regular belly? I looked up typical weight gain for a singleton pregnancy:
Blood 3 pounds
Breasts 2 pounds
Womb 2 pounds
Baby 7.5 pounds
Placenta 1.5 pounds
Amniotic fluid 2 pounds
Fat, protein & other nutrients 7 pounds
Retained water 4 pounds
With two babies, two placentas, and twice as much amniotic fluid, I'm carrying the equivalent of 14.5 pounds of baby. And if I make it 2 more weeks (fingers crossed!) that will grow, perhaps, to 16.5 pounds of baby. That's a lot of cargo. How I've pitied women who carry and deliver a 10 lb. baby. So I'm officially giving myself permission to pity myself. My belly is certainly pitying itself today and whining incessantly. Hopefully it'll get over it after a good (ha!) night's rest. There's really not enough pity going around for the both of us.
Christen took up the challenge and drew an awesome Brood Mother. I wish my hair looked that cute.
Since I'm posting images, someone directed me to this page of Shannon Hale fan art. So amazing. Let me insert a few here. All these images are copyrighted. If any of you are the creators and would rather I didn't post them here, please let me know and I'll take them down.
ma-hannah and the cast from the goose girl:
There are lots of others as well that are really great. It's so flattering when someone reads your book and is inspired to create another work of art. Wonderful stuff!
After promising to blog daily for the rest of my bedrest, when I missed yesterday some of you might have assumed I was whisked away to the hospital for an early delivery. Happily not! I'm still pregnant and 35 weeks today! And hoping to give the babes at least two more weeks in the slow cooker. So why did I miss yesterday? Um...I forgot. Consider the vacancy of September 13 as my blog post about the brain fogginess of pregnancy.
My husband Dean (co-writer of rapunzel's revenge and calamity jack, co-author of our four children, co-pilot of this insanity) has a tendency to create a menagerie of nicknames for our family members. Some are mine exclusively when I'm pregnant, most especially Pregomat. He was calling me this for some time during my first pregnancy before I understood its etymology. Tiamat is a Babylonian goddess and chaos monster, possibly dragon-like, who gave birth to the land and the sea. So naturally, I am Pregomat. Other pregnancy-type names include Pig Pocket, Meat Factory, Lady Behemoth, and Incubus.
There's been a new nickname this time around. I suppose given the twins situation it seemed merited. I quite like this one: Brood Mother. I'm thinking there should be a super villain named Brood Mother in comics somewhere. Maybe we'll write it, and you'll all know the origin. Brood Mother vs. Wonder Woman: a clash of estrogen unlike the world has ever seen!
Hey, if there are any artists out there who feel inclined to draw Brood Mother, I'll post your pix.