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.

Leaving The Excruciating Middle

I have indeed (as I predicted/mourned here) rewritten most of the second half of this novel, which has been excruciating, but the key words are "HAVE rewritten." Have written!

I have managed to hitch the mostly-new middle to the existing ending as well. Now to rewrite the ending.

In the past week of seclusion I have written thousands of words, six brand-new chapters and two revised/reworked chapters, along with the myriad of small duties -- looking up stuff, going back to weave something in and through the narrative, deleting such-and-so, finding little a-ha moments and implanting them, making notes by my side that help me remember to go back and do this-not-that when I take a break from forward motion, and lots of other small tasks.

I have been in that trench I wrote so seriously about here, and laughed about here, but it is good... somehow it is fine. My focus has been good, I have taken breaks and have been able to get back to work -- I am in the groove, so to speak, and it feels marvelous to be writing ahead, living a writing life, and heading for my goal.

I was stuck early in the week -- I had to stare at chapter 17 for three long days (as I wrote about here) before I could go forward with it. I wanted to tear my hair out... but nothing was happening, I couldn't figure it out. And then, finally, finally, I coaxed something wonderful -- it made perfect sense! -- to the surface and forged ahead. It's been like that a lot, actually. Excruciating. This fashioning-something-out-of-nothing always amazes me... creation is a mystical thing, isn't it? And here's the thing: It cannot be rushed. It can't. I can suit up and show up, and try. Try. That's the agreement I make with myself.

You'll notice I tacked a few extra days onto my finish line. Yeah. But hey. The original goal was Halloween. Then it was Nov. 4, election day. Then... Nov. 8, as I leave for fall travels on November 8. I can have something resembling a new draft by then. And, and I will have had a life as well, along the way. And I will not have killed myself trying to meet a deadline that felt too tight to accommodate my process... and yet, I have been disciplined, I have not been a slacker, so to miss by a week feels marvelous, too.

That's part of taking care of myself -- to allow myself to work hard and yet not expire, and to do my part in the overall process that brings a book to life.

Most of this week is for finishing -- I will hunker in. I meet with my editor by phone on Wednesday afternoon. I get my hair cut and put back into shape after months of letting it fly every-which-way while I stay focused. And I fly into the sunrise on Saturday morning, to attend a friend's wedding (mazel tov, Nancy!), and for a welcome round of schools and conferences in November. The book will be of-a-piece by then (one can only hope) and on my editor's desk.

We had a lovely birthday gathering for a friend here on Saturday night after dinner at a new Thai restaurant in the neighborhood -- don't you love the surprise birthday dessert they brought to the table? We took the candle home with us and put it on the chocolate cake.

I was sequestered most of last week, including all day yesterday, went to dinner last night with Jim, then to a bookstore just to browse. It felt so normal... and so unusual, like looking up and seeing that the larger world goes on without you.

I now have 21 chapters that feel solid and I probably have another ten to go. We'll see. The ground shifts beneath my feet, from time to time, as I hitch the middle to the end and take into account the new characters who appeared during this revision, as well as the shift in emphasis with some of Franny's relationships. This will naturally affect the pages to come, although I still expect the end to be the same... don't know how that happens, and I may be surprised.

I have five days to finish.

Up A Tree

This is how we started Halloween: with a black cat up a tree. It's where Franny is right now, in my novel... it's Halloween 1962, she's up the proverbial tree, and I'm letting her figure her way down.

Cleebo began calling to me -- to anybody -- about 5pm yesterday. By the time I discovered where he was, half the neighborhood was out in the yard, looking for a pitifully-meowing cat. He was more than 200 feet up in a pine tree that had no limbs below the skinny one he was clinging to.

"I've seen him run half-way up, after a squirrel," said neighbor Scott, "but I've never seen him this high." I'll bet Cleebo never thought he'd be that high, either.

We talked him down. We got a sheet and held it beneath the tree, like something out of an old "the building's on fire!" movie. We discussed calling the fire department (Do people still do that? They're not going to believe you've got a black cat up a tree on Halloween night!), we brought out his food bowl and rattled the food -- neighbors were full of suggestions, and my staff, dressed as a witch, called, "Come on, Beebo!"

He made several false starts, trying to come down head first, some of which left us gasping. Then, finally, as dusk began to fall, Cleebo finally figured out to save himself and -- bit by little bit -- he climbed backwards down that tree. I stood at the bottom and called encouragement to him as he slid-and-stopped, slid-and-stopped, meowing all the way. Pine bark rained all over Scott and me as we held a sheet like a billowing sail underneath Cleebo's possible falling-trajectory.

What grit! What determination! As he got close, I dropped the sheet and plastered myself against the tree trunk and reached my arms up to him and plucked him off the tree as soon as I could. Sweet relief and laughter all around, and Cleebo, his paws and belly sticky with resin, began purring in my arms.

Then, of course, he wanted to saunter right off again. Oh, no-you-don't, Buster.

It's Halloween night 1962, and I am coaxing Franny down her tree. Like Cleebo did, Franny's going to have to figure out how to save herself. This is my challenge now.

I'll spend the morning with Franny. Then I'm baking a chocolate cake and getting ready for a birthday gathering here tonight with friends. I haven't seen nearby friends for many weeks. I've been holed up with this novel, but now I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel... the ground beneath my feet. I hope. I hope.