What I'm Loving Right Now

I've framed this photo, taken in Mobile, Alabama, where I was born and lived the first five years of my life. I did not like this guy for the longest time.

Elvis-Andy-Bebop is in the house. He is five months old now, and has grown almost fully into his standard poodle size and is the happiest being I know -- happy-happy-happy! Let me eat your ears! Let me chew your cell phone! O, wow, glasses! A watch! Oh-Oh-Oh, Jim will roll around on the floor with me! In his gig suit! Hey, buttons! What do you mean, bedtime?

We've been on a new-cookie hunt this season. This is my favorite new recipe, from Smitten Kitchen. Chocolate brownie roll-out cookies -- to die for.

We've had several gatherings at our house this season -- I love the family we have created here in Atlanta. Here are some of the people who gathered at our house to make the cookies and play the music, tell the stories, and celebrate with us -- family, community, kinship, connection... it's what I write about as well.

In the midst of the holiday hoopla, THIS BOOK arrived in the mail this week. It's the Japanese edition of EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS. Don't you adore Declaration's poofy dress? I love this cover, and I have a story to tell you about the translator of this book, and how we got to know one another, and about the sometimes-hilarious questions I fielded in helping her make a quirky, American southern novel into a resonant story for Japanese readers. Stay tuned.

Get ready to fall in love... here is a clementine candle.... made by moi. Took me five minutes. It burned for three hours. It smells luscious, and makes me happy, and you can make one or a billion, too. Here are the directions, at Apartment Therapy. Hannah found this and forwarded it to me on email with the subject line: "Clearly, we need to do this." We did.

I used canola oil instead of my expensive olive oil, and substituted a tangerine I had on hand. I plan to use these as luminaries on my Christmas dinner table.

I'm loving my novel right now, too. Mornings are the best time to get up early, in the dark, before the house stirs, and sit with this story. That's what I'm doing. Inch by inch, row by row, just like my shawl... I'm making this story grow.

Casting On Again

Here is the knitting project I'm working on now. It will be a shawl, knitted in two 30-inch rectangles, then sewn together at right angles.

I haven't had a knitting project on my needles for such a long time. When daughter Hannah and I went out for our annual day-long holiday shopping day (complete with brunch), we wandered into our favorite knitting store, and I came out with this wool/silk blend, and a pattern written by the shop owner for me on the back of an envelope:

Using size 11 needles, cast on 54 stitches (I cast on 62), and knit in the stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row) until you've got about 30", then cast off and repeat. Sew both rectangles together at right angles.

This is a pattern I seem to be following with my novel right now. I have cast on characters and plot lines and tension and mystery and color and setting. The first rectangle is finished. The second is only a few rows from being done. And then I must tie both rectangles together -- I think I will fringe them -- and then, oh please-please-please may I have a whole, complete, beautiful, strong novel.

I am so close I can taste it. And every morning as I sit down to write, I feel as if I am casting on again. Casting on the entire story, draping it around my shoulders, like the shawl I am making, racing for the finish with the fringe flying out behind me.

This is the finish I thought I would arrive at a month ago, of course. But the sudden loss of an editor, coupled with fall travels and holidays on its heels, put such a dent in my rhythm and work pattern... not to mention I have now an entirely new voice in this novel... the voice of my new editor.

I think we will work together just fine. He is new to me, and not. I've been working with him all along, but in the big-picture way. Now we are rolling up our sleeves and working together on the nitty-gritty, and getting used to one another and our differing patterns and nuances and ways of seeing. It's a lot of work. And it's good work.

I was thrown off my game for a while, but I am back in the groove again now. I am so close to done I can taste it.

Meanwhile, I make split pea soup -- this is what's going in the soup -- carrots, celery, onion, salt/pepper, garlic, and a healthy wallop of marjoram. Meanwhile, I listen to the rain batter the roof. Meanwhile, I wonder when I will have time to put up the tree, decorate same, and begin our Christmas season.

But maybe we have already begun. We have had our shopping day. We have fine, steady rain -- such a gift. We have plenty of healthy, hearty food -- I even made cornbread. And we are all warm and dry and able to work, to tell our stories, to help one another through the days ahead. Each day we cast on the day's responsibilities, and each day we knit through them.

I'm good with that. That's just about everything.

Everything Tries To Be Round

Kindergarteners break my heart.

So do 8th-graders.

My work this week ranged from grades K through 8 and included their teachers. I am privileged -- I know I am -- to do the work that I do. I learn so much... I wish I had words tonight to convey this, but I am too tired, coming home, finally... coming home and tumbling into my own welcoming, wonderful, warm bed. Oooo, look at all those adjectives. Well-placed, every one.

Tomorrow, I go back to work finishing the new novel -- I'll send you updates this week -- and I will delight in the fact that it's almost done, it is!

Because the Christmas season is upon us, I'm thinking about Black Elk today, the famous Medicine Man of the Oglala Lakota Sioux. Black Elk was a cousin of Crazy Horse. He participated in the Battle of Little Big Horn (at age 12!), and he was injured at Wounded Knee.

Why would I think about him at Christmas? Because, years ago, in the days when I actually sent out Christmas cards, I bought some cards with a snowman on the front and a saying of Black Elk on the inside. I bought them because the saying was so unusual, and it struck me as so insightful. Here it is:

"The world always works in circles, and everything tries to be round."


I talk about circles ad nauseum in schools; I tell students about beginnings, middles, and ends. I tell them that their very breaths are circles never to be repeated. Then we take breaths together, in that yoga-of-writing pose. I am convinced that not only are stories circles, so are we. So are the seasons, the years, the moments, the everything. What goes around comes around, and this thought, this belief, sustains me. Everything tries to be round.

I bought these odd Christmas cards years ago because I sensed they said something important, although I couldn't, for the life of me, put words around it and explain it to anyone. Today I'm only a bit more advanced toward understanding the saying on these cards, but I have to say that I'm much more convinced that it is oh-so-true.

The world always works in circles and everything tries to be round. Including Kindergarteners and 8th-graders.


Good With Cream Cheese

This scene greeted me on the kitchen counter this morning as I prepared to leave for the airport.

I wondered if it was the fish or the fresh pumpkin muffins that were good with cream cheese.

I decided it was the muffins. Thank you, Hannah.

I am sitting at the Atlanta airport, where all of humanity has gathered to fly home from Thanksgiving dinners and family gatherings. We had a luscious Thanksgiving, too -- just look at that dish of baked vegetables... even before baking, it was this beautiful! Merci, merci to the chefs!

We've had two days of deliciously wonderful, constantly falling rain, and no one is complaining because we've been in such a drought here.

But it's foggy this morning, as a result. ATL, the world's busiest airport, is careful with low ceilings, and that often means flight delays. But I have my muffin. I will be fine.

I'm on the way to Washington, D.C. I will spend a day with family in Frederick, Maryland, then scoot to Fairfax and Fauquier Counties in Virginia, where I'm working the rest of the week with third-through-eighth graders on personal narrative writing.

Schools are my tasty muffins. Family is my cream cheese treat, that little (big) extra. After this trip, I am home for the year. Let the celebrating begin, both for this trip, and for the family time right around the corner.

I'm looking forward, this holiday season, to lots and lots of cream cheese...

Rights, Privileges, And Traditions

Yesterday, I early-voted in Georgia's runoff election for U.S. Senator. I will be teaching in D.C. area schools on the actual election day, December 2 (Tues. next week), and yesterday was the last of three days of early voting.

I didn't want to go.

It was cold outside. The early voting facility was 40 minutes away. I've been sick -- I'm still hacking. It was the day before Thanksgiving; traffic would be terrible and I had lots to do.

But. Women didn't fight for my right to vote so I could sit at home and not cast my vote in an important run-off election, on a day when I had every means to get to the polling place. It's hard to believe today that women in this country, not so long ago, were beaten, imprisoned, and tortured by those who did not want to give them their constitutional right to cast a ballot in this country and to have a say in their -- and their children's -- future.

[Recommended viewing: Iron-Jawed Angels starring Hillary Swank as Alice Paul. A phenomenal film. You will never again take for granted a woman's right to vote.]

So. Voting is my right. It is also a privilege. And now, it is a tradition. Just as is the Thanksgiving dinner we will gather for this afternoon. Jim plays at the Georgian Club today until 2pm. We've scheduled dinner for 4pm, and Jason is hosting us. He and his friend Stephanie and his brother and sister (and Elvis Andy Bebop) spent yesterday afternoon, closeted over at Stephanie's house, chopping, stirring, baking, bonding.

I am in charge of making my mother's cornbread dressing. I'm about to pop the cornbread, in its iron skillet, into the oven. Hannah made my mother's pecan pie last night, along with "The Orange Stuff" -- what would a southern Thanksgiving be without a congealed salad?

Here's the recipe:

Orange Congealed Salad (aka, affectionately, The Orange Stuff)

1 large box of orange Jell-O, melted in large bowl using 1 c. boiling water

Add a softened two cups of Cool-Whip and
a softened two cups of orange sherbet

Whip all in your Mix-Master or with a hand-blender until smooth.

Fold in two small cans of Mandarin oranges, drained.

Refrigerate until set, then cut into squares and arrange squares artfully on lettuce
leaves. Or not.

Sigh and eat three squares at one sitting.

The morning is mellow. Hope yours is, too.

A Place To Call Home

This is the view from my bedroom window. Probably I should rake.

This is the view from over the salad bowl in my kitchen. Just needs a few nuts and seeds, some bleu cheese, maybe...

This is the view from the top of the pot. Some cranberries are in order. Maybe some almonds. And the beans from last week's chili, to make a complete protein.

This is the view from atop the cutting board. A little steaming is all that's needed.

This is the view from the pink chair, where I eat my meal with loved ones and listen to the companionable click of the fire.

See my grandmother's sad iron in the foreground? My mother said she grew up learning to iron with this very iron, which was heated over the coals... what an art it must have been to have been able to iron with one of these without burning the sheets or dresses or shirts you were ironing... without burning yourself.

It's an art to make home in whatever way you make it. I'm glad to have a home, this Thanksgiving season... there were times I literally had no place to call home, no bed for my children.

If you have not been there, it's hard to imagine the fear that it brings, the desperation that dogs your every step, and the indignities that lurk at every turn.

It's hard to find community, to find understanding, to find concrete ways to help yourself. It's a scarring thing, to be homeless. It scars you, your children, and their children, too. It scars a nation, and it is a shame on earth.

Many families today have lost their homes. Many in this country and others around the world haven't had homes for such a long time. I am supremely lucky to have leaves to rake and broccoli to chop and dishes to wash and good work to do within my four walls, and without. I am lucky to have found community, and loved ones, and a generous-hearted family.

May it be so for all, forever. That's my Thanksgiving wish.

The Landscape Of Your Life

I'm the speck at the front of the room. Great room.

Yesterday I rose at 5, in my hotel room in Franklin, Tennessee, showered, brushed up my speech to the Tennessee Association of School Librarians, had room service breakfast (one of my favorite things in the world), made my way to Salon 5 in the Franklin Marriott, delivered a rousing speech to a fantabulous crowd of hard-working, earnest, passionate librarians...

...signed books until they were sold out, presented a session to a packed house on writing personal narratives (I want to see your stories!), hugged and thanked everyone (such a marvelous bunch of folks -- hey, Margaret, hey, Belinda, hey Scot, hey all of you), checked out of my hotel room, drove five hours home to Atlanta, and on the way, called a good friend whose mother had died while I was traveling... so I was not home and couldn't make it to the funeral.

It turned out that there would be a small gathering of friends at her home that very evening, to listen to The White Album by The Beatles, Nov. 22 being the anniversary of many things, including the release of The White Album 40 years ago, in 1968. Would Jim and I like to come?

We would, and we did.

What a blessing is friendship. We lit candles, we turned on the yellow submarine lamp (which has a lava-lamp effect), we settled ourselves against one another and we adjusted all four speakers to just-the-right-levels, so we could hear every nuance, every note. After chocolate cake and ice cream and all four sides of the remastered 30-year commemorative CD (which had not been opened until last night), we bid our goodnights, sped home through the darkness, and tumbled into our soft, warm bed at midnight.

Is not everyone's workday crazy like this?

Hahahaha. This morning I am still in bed. I am eating hot buttered toast and drinking strong Kenyan coffee. I plan to do nothing else today but stare at the leaves outside my window and ruminate on life.

Is not everyone's Sunday lazy like this?


I have again lost my voice, and my head feels as if it's in a vice grip, so it's time to take good care of myself and lay low for a while. I have one week before my next travel. Thanksgiving is stuck in there... someplace. Thank goodness son Jason is cooking this year... although I will contribute my mother's pecan pie and "the orange stuff."

I thought this morning about how over-full my life was when I had all four children at home and the weekdays -- workdays -- were just as packed as my day yesterday was.

The landscape was just different, that's all.

For two years I had one child in high school, one in middle school, one in elementary school, and one in diapers. I didn't know if I was coming or going, but I call those days my glory days, because they meant so much to me, even in all their craziness... they were the days we were most "together."

The two stretches in my life when I was a single parent -- once in my teens/early twenties and again in my late forties/early fifties -- were so packed that I was cross-eyed with exhaustion. In fact, I've pretty much been cross-eyed with exhaustion for the past seven or eight years... hmmm.... will ruminate on this today, from my perch by the window.

Am thinking about landscapes today, and how the landscape of life changes with age, time, and experience... and attitude, too, I suppose. Choices, too, yes?

Tomorrow I start work on the novel again, another landscape. My new (and not so new) editor has read the manuscript, we have spoken by phone twice and have exchanged some email. I feel confident the story is in good hands, and I am ready to wrap up 30 days of process, here on the blog, this week.

I will catch you up soon.

A Delicious Time Was Had By All

Oh, Seattle! How I adore you.

I adore you so much, I'm still hoarse. I talked and ate, ate and talked, and laughed and learned so much from you last week... and I have spent most of my weekend in BED, recovering. Believe me... you were worth it.

Now to make sure that I can talk the rest of the week, as I visit south Georgia schools on Tues. and Wed., and speak at TASL -- Tennessee Association of School Librarians -- on Saturday. I must have a voice!

Who has the wonder cure for hoarse throats? (I can't even say the dreaded L word -- laryngitis.)

I am drinking hot Yogi Tea with honey, I am gargling with hot salt water, I am sucking on Ricola drops, I am speaking only in a whisper... and my voice is a bit better today, but not yet in singing form (which I need for K). I've got about fifteen hours left before I need to use this throat again.

But back to Seattle, the new love of my life:

Thank you, you beautiful students, resourceful teachers, and intrepid team at Glenridge, led by Tina and Mimi, and same-o to the good folks at Grass Lake, who so graciously sat through a two-hour teacher workshop after school, and who offered up their stories.

Thank you, Mary Jo Lambert, for putting together such a meaningful day at Grass Lake, and thank you to friends Nancy Johnson and Kathryn Noe for coming from their respective schools in Bellingham and Seattle, to take a tired author to dinner before her red-eye flight home.

So much happened in a week. I started in Atlanta, flew to Boston for Nancy Werlin's wedding (so lovely), flew to Seattle to visit family, then to work in schools, to visit with friends, and then flew home through Minneapolis, to Boston, then back to Atlanta, where I crash landed in bed. And all the while... we ate.

Food, glorious food.

Students, glorious students.

Notebooks, glorious notebooks.

And more food.... I am working up to a post about how all the wonderful food on the road conspires to elephantize authors, but I'm not ready for that one yet... still. STILL! It's so hard to resist, and so much fun to partake, and the community is luscious, it is.

Really... could you resist this?

Or this? Here are K's (some first graders, too) dancing to ONE WIDE SKY...

Did I mention food? Thank you, Allison, for your baking wizardry, AND for the recipes.

Glenridge teachers. Baker Allison (or is it Alison?) is in the back, left. Artist Debbie (who did the Ruby/Welcome artwork at the top of this post) is in back, right.

It was fall in Seattle, and yes, we had rain. We also had sunshine. And pumpkins.

A big thank you to Mary Jo (right) and Mimi (left) for working so beautifully with their teams and making these visits so special.

I am ready to come back! Anytime.

Just let me find my voice....

We Are The Boat

Many thanks for your mail. It has been such a balm to read your notes, and to know we're all in this big boat together.

Hugs to all of you who have lost editors and authors, and jobs and projects and more this past year or two -- it is such a difficult time right now in publishing.

We're all going to hold on to the sides of this boat together and sail forth into calm seas. Yes? Yes. There is safe harbor ahead.

In the meantime, let me tell you what helps.

A change of scenery helps.

It helps to have a boy play a tuba. Meet my Minister of Music. (Don't you think we need one of these in the next administration's cabinet?)

A drizzly afternoon of board games and tea helps.

A walk to the lake helps. So do silly dogs.

Handmade meals help.

Beautifully stacked wood and a crackling fire helps.

"Who's the tallest?" contests help.

Wii Music helps! So does having your Minister of Music download six hours worth of his favorite music onto your laptop for your listening edification and pleasure. I am flying a red-eye home on Thursday at midnight, and I will be able to plug in and enjoy Bob Marley, The Amnesty Trio, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Coldplay, Def Leppard, The Eagles, Hootie and the Blowfish, James Brown, Joe Cocker, Modest Mouse, Steve Miller Band, Taj Mahal, Canadian Brass, and my personal new favorite, Panic at the Disco. Thank you, Minister.

Thank you, Family.

It helps to be surrounded by love, and it helps to have a purpose other than "the end" on a manuscript, too. Today I will spend the day at Grass Lake Elementary School in Kent, and tomorrow I will hang with students and teachers at Glenridge in Renton, before being whisked away to dinner with friends and then to the airport and home, back to Atlanta.

We'll do good work today, talking about personal narratives and working with them after school with teachers. Today I feel like I live a charmed life and want to enjoy every second, even those seconds that toss me overboard.

There is lots to be learned in the choppy sea of uncertainty. For one thing, I am always reminded of how good the good times are, and how they always -- always -- circle around and come into port again. We create safe harbors for one another. It is one of the things I love about being human and telling stories.

We Interrupt This Program...

Things were going so well.

Buoyed by the most important pair of eyes and my own growing confidence that this book is going to be finished on time and be wonderful (please), I got the wind knocked out of my sails on Wednesday.

My editor, the one with those most-important eyes, the one I wrote about here (and elsewhere), has been laid off.

I am trying not to take this personally. There were cuts across the board, and in this crazy economy no one seems immune to budget cuts and someone's (seemingly arbitrary) bottom-line accounting and scrutiny.

But - HEY! This is MY EDITOR you're fooling with! This is MY NOVEL! This is MY DEADLINE! This is -- who can I shout at? (I've done it.) Who can I turn to? (I've done it.) What can be done? (It's being done.)


Notice, my first reaction is that this is all about memememeee. And of course it isn't. Still... I have now lost three editors in less than two years at two different publishing houses. Who can write a novel?

I can.

And I will.

I will finish this book -- remember, I can almost touch that ending. I will finish. It will take me a bit longer than my planned Saturday (today) deadline. The conversation my editor and I were supposed to have Wednesday wasn't about the novel at all, of course. Then there were forty-eleven other conversations and some decisions to make.

And I thought the election was a distraction.

My plan had been to take all the story-talk from Wednesday's conversation, incorporate it into my draft, and race for the finish on Saturday. Now my pace is understandably altered, as I was temporarily rudderless, without that editorial wind to puff my sails.

I gave myself one day for primal screaming and neurotic meanderings, and one day to wrap it all up, and we've adjusted, my agent (the most important business decision I ever made), my publisher, my new editor (who is really a current editor, but more on that later), and I. We've tacked right, left, and are moving forward again. All will be well. All is falling into place. The good folks at Scholastic have been reeling as well. And my newly-beloved editor will land on her feet, there is no doubt. And she will still be beloved. But... what a blow to us all. This economy! It is eating our lunch.

But I won't think about that today. Today, in just a few hours, I fly to Boston where I meet up with daughter Hannah and become one of the revelers at my friend Nancy Werlin's wedding. Mazel tov, Nancy and Jim. We can't wait to be with you.

Monday I fly to Seattle for some days in schools there, so I'm back out on the road, with the novel in tow. Not how I had hoped it would work out, but you never know when life is going to throw you a curve ball. Best to try and catch it and toss it back.

Follow Your Bliss

Blessed is he who takes comfort in seed time and harvest, setting the warfare of life to the hymn of the seasons. -- Julia Ward Howe

A bit of politics this morning, a bit of process, I hope you will indulge me. I'm going to be a proud mama for a moment (proud book mama, too).

Daughter Hannah (who was an Obama Fellow in Georgia all summer and has been working for Obama in Bowling Green, OH since September) called several times last night from Ohio, as the election results came in.

We could hardly hear her over the cacophony in the background as Ohio went blue, as Hannah's Ohio county went blue (it had been predicted to stay red), and as the country voted for Barack Obama as its 44th president.

Hannah shouted, over and over again, her ragged voice shot through with joy and relief after relentless months of campaigning in two states, canvassing, calling, trying, believing, hoping:

"I brought you a president! I brought you a president!"

Yes, you did, you 22-year-old compassionate, passionate activist, you.

Yes we did.

It amazes me what people can do when they follow their bliss. (Thank you, Joseph Campbell.) I am following my bliss with this novel. I wonder if finishing it will feel anything close to the sweet victory I heard in Hannah's voice last night. I'm banking on it.

This afternoon I talk with my editor and get my hair cut (not at the same time) so I can look halfway presentable on the road this month. I leave Saturday for Boston, then shoot across the country to Seattle, and finish off November in Tennessee and Georgia, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Taking October off to write -- the first October I have been home in seven years -- was a gift and a challenge I gave myself. I am almost there, almost finished, I can brush the ending of this novel with the tips of my fingers. Now to grab it and hold it in both hands. What a victory that will be.

Big Reveals (And Lack Thereof)

I would just like it to be noted that, here I sit, writing away, all this month like a crazy person, while the crazy political season swirls all around me, and here I sit on election day, writing away like a crazy person, while the crazy electoral ground literally shifts under my feet.

Is this discipline or what?

Insert maniacal laughter here.

What a time! And that's all I'm going to say -- today -- about this election season and our collective stories -- what a time.

In the meantime, I have GOT to make progress, and yesterday was a wash, a complete and utter wash -- I fell into bed feeling like a failure, even though I know I'm not.

Yesterday was the day for a "big reveal." This is my name for a scene where a vital piece of information is revealed to the reader (and to Franny, in this case). A big reveal is like opening a window into the story. Sometimes the big reveal turns the entire story -- and there are smaller reveals along the way, of course.

Big reveals are hard to manage well, but they are manageable, if you've got one to manage... if that makes sense. For me, since so much of the novel has shifted under my fingers, this particular big reveal has shifted as well.

The reveal I had planned to write about here turns out to be too much of a hammer-on-the-head. I need something more subtle. And I have possibilities... but I could not decide yesterday. I went one way, then the next. I backed up and tried again, but the best I could do, sitting all afternoon at Panera Bread while workers installed replacement windows at my house, the best I could do was call it a day and go home around 6pm.

Then I sat with the novel last night, reading and making notes, and rereading... still no reveal that felt just-right. I was staring at a big gaping hole -- sort of like this one, to the right, which is where my multi-paned, floor-to-ceiling living room (my office) window used to go. I am replacing my forty-year-old stuck-shut, wooden-warped, impossible to clean or open windows with insulated, tilt-in, easy-up-and-down, gloriously wide-paned vinyl windows. New windows: new reveals. I need a new reveal for my novel.

Remind me that I DID work yesterday. Remind me that, when the big reveal is... er... revealed to me, that it will come as a result of yesterday's slog. Please do not remind me that I have four days left (count 'em) to finish this draft. Thankyouverymuch.

When the work isn't going well (my definition of "well" at this point being pages are coming together and I'm making forward progress in the narrative), I turn to making notes in my notebook. Here are some of the notes I made over the past couple of days. I sent them to my editor, in preparation for Wednesday's (tomorrow! ulp!) conversation:

My concerns/questions for this novel at this point:

-- too melodramatic?
-- too kitchen sinky -- too ambitious?
-- don't use Mississippi references if they aren't going to pay off later (I have a plan, just not there yet and this may be part of the big reveal)
-- too much cultural referencing?
-- have dropped jack (dog) -- will bring him back (other threads need attn, too)
-- lack of weather and description and various other details (will fix -- I'm working for
plot and structure now)

what I like:

-- Franny's voice and authenticity as a character/person
-- 1st person, present tense, which I used in Freedom Summer as well, but never in a novel before -- I started in past tense, but it didn't work well that way... now it feels right.
-- the relationships that are forming between characters
-- the small mysteries (and the larger ones)
-- the humor
-- the vignette style for each chapter (which was accidental but feels just right)
-- the organic feel of what's happening/how things fit
-- much of what I'm referencing in the narrative will be fleshed out and supported by the extra materials, tk.

Timing: I think I have it figured out now. First draft, I had a year's time-frame, Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving. Second draft, I started in September 1962, the first week of school. Now, this third time through, I have started on Oct. 19, as we head into Kennedy's speech on Oct. 22 about a Soviet missile build-up in Cuba.

Right now I plan to end on Oct. 27, a Saturday night (which was the scariest and last night of the Cuban Missile Crisis), with the Halloween party. There will be a coda on Halloween night, the next Wed., as the CMC is resolved and the last threads come together.

Daunting doesn't begin to cover it.

Today's election is going to be a Big Reveal. Yesterday, while stuck and distracting myself from the task at hand, I wrote daughter Hannah, who has been in Ohio working like a crazy person for the Obama campaign, "I shudder to think about the therapy you will need if Obama doesn't take Ohio."

She wrote me back this morning: "No therapy will be needed!"

Is this a big reveal? Does she know something I don't know? Or is she just so enthusiastic she's doggedly determined to swing that state?

I said I wasn't going to talk about the election anymore today. Oops. It's just that big reveals can go more than one way -- yes? It will be interesting to watch the returns tonight and lean into the big reveal... maybe I will come up with the way to turn my novel as I do.

I'm off to vote this morning, then back to work.