Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Moving Day!

In an effort to simplify my life (I hope!) I've transferred my blog to my website. From now on, I'll be posting at Come see me!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Putting "The Dream" on hold

Right now, my writer mind is pulled in a million directions. Well, a few, anyway. I'm preparing to go back to work after summer break and teach a few dozen 15-16 year-olds about Beowulf and Macbeth. Writing syllabi and lesson plans might seem boring to some, but for me they are actually a much needed respite from my two writing projects. The first project is my option book, which I hope to become my second book, for my current publisher. The second project is my baby. Not my literal baby -- I'm all done with that, thank you very much! :)

No, this baby is THE ONE. It's the manuscript I've always wanted to write. It's the book that has the best storyline and the strongest dialogue. It's the best thing I've ever written, ever. And there's no way it will see the light of day any time soon.

Publishing can be complicated, but one truth is universal: it's slow. Painfully slow. Horribly, mind-numbingly slow. That's just the way it is. The only way to deal with the lag between writing, querying, pitching, selling, signing contracts, etc. is to accept it and move on. Preferably while you're still writing something.

So, my pet project, my "baby", isn't going any where for awhile. And that can be exceptionally frustrating. As a writer, like a lot of writers, I can be pretty self-depricating. I often second guess how good my writing is or whether I can make it. But my "baby" is good. I know it's good. I'm not even embarassed to say it. I'm proud. It's the book that does what I want to do -- it speaks to teenagers with a voice they can relate to. It captures a viewpoint that is raw. I can't wait until this book is on the shelf.

But, first, I owe a book to my publisher. When you are releasing a novel in a certain catagory or genre, you often need to follow it up with a similar book. That eliminates my "baby" from the running -- it's nothing like my first book, TASTE TEST. It's dark and gritty, whereas TASTE TEST is light and funny and romantic.

So, what will I do until my "baby" can enter the world? I'll keep writing it. I'll keep adding and creating and moving mountains to make it better. In the mean time, I'll write my option book and make it the best book I can write. Because, in the end, the best way to honor my "baby" is to establish a reader base with the first few books I have published.

I'm very impatient. If nothing else, this industry has taught me how to relax a little bit and wait for others to move the ball along. The old Kelly would have struggled greatly with the concept that my "baby" book won't be in the public sphere any time soon. Instead, I'm trying to look at it as though I'm setting the stage for the "baby" book. And on days like today, when I just want to share it with the whole world, I remind myself that when you wait for something that matters, it's almost always worth it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Something that's not about writing.

I'm compelled to write about something non-writing related; today I'm going to talk about food. More specifically, about my son, Max, and how changing his eating changed our life.

Throughout his first year, Max struggled first with unending, painful acid reflux. He would scream and cry and be completely inconsolable. Once we introduced solid foods, Max immediately became constipated. None of the natural, homeopathic, or medical interventions we tried worked. He was miserable once again and my husband and I felt helpless. There is nothing, nothing worse than knowing your child is in pain and not being able to stop it. He was on three prescriptions before he turned one.

Through all of this, we never suspected his food or dairy or anything he was ingesting. We didn't have many friends with kids, but we saw what they ate and we figured Max should just eat what every kid eats.

About a year or so after Max was born, Matt and I watched Food Inc. and really started to understand how important it is to know what you're putting in your body. We were careful to make all dairy and meat organic and we tried to choose natural alternatives for junk food. Still, Max dealt with varied illnesses and a lot of them. Matt and I missed a lot of work those first two years. Max got sick monthly, if not more.

As Max got older, we started noticing mood swings and aggressive behavior. It was the kind of thing, up until he turned four, that we were able to pass off as typical for a toddler. However, as he got closer and closer to four, his tantrums got progressively worse and more violent. He spent hours screaming and banging on walls. He tore down his bedroom curtains. He threw things. He destroyed a toy box. He tore things up. He was also constantly chewing on his clothes -- mostly his socks and his collar. He'd pick at things until they fell apart or had holes.

Matt and I both have a family history of neurological disorders -- Autism on his side and Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder on mine. Max was growing into a boy who showed a lot of the typical signs of a kid suffering from one of these disorders. We went to the doctor several times from the ages of 2-4; every time, we were told that we needed to have more consistant discipline.

I tried to rationalize his behavior. I tried to define it. I tried to excuse it. I never accepted it. Finally, the month Max turned four (February of this year) we switched his daycare. We believed (or made ourselves believe) that his issues were steming from how unhappy he was at the in-home situation we'd had him in.

Max had three perfect weeks at his new daycare. Then the honeymoon was over. He threw tantrums. He cried hysterically for no reason. Worst of all, he'd become even more violent. He threw wooden blocks at his teachers. He hit the other kids. To my absolute horror, a pregnant teacher had to be removed from his class because they thought she would be in danger. In DANGER. From my four year old little boy.

To say I was devastated or depressed would be an understatement. We signed up for behavioral therapy. We tried every possible behavioral modification, reward chart, or punishment that we could think of. Nothing made a difference. Feeling helpless, I turned to the pediatrician one last time. It was February 28, 2012 when this doctor, a different doctor, told me about the Feingold Diet.

The Feingold Diet is a diet that removes all artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives from foods. On top of that, it limits and/or elimiates certain natural foods that are high in salicylates, a key component in aspirin.

When you are a parent who is out of options and tired of alternating between almost hating your own child and feeling desperate to help him, you will literally try anything, even if it's ground rhinocerous horn or some kind of black magic. That wasn't what got me to try Feingold (FG) though. What got me was reading the first chapter of Jane Hersey's book, "Why Can't My Child Behave?" that is published on the FG website. It was like reading a book about my life. Then I looked at the FG behavior checklist and watched in wonder as I checked off symptom after symptom.

When we started Feingold, we did so many things wrong at first. There is a very specific list of approved products on the Feingold diet. I didn't think it was necessary to follow things word for word. Max didn't get any better. Once we'd figured out that we needed to be more strict, it took maybe three or four more weeks to figure out that for four years, Max had an intolerance to dairy. Once we removed it, along with corn syrup and chocolate, we held our breath and waited.

The result is what many parents might consider a dream life. I have a little boy who went from throwing 2-3 violent tantrums a day to a boy whose last tantrum was...honestly, I don't remember. He never gets sick. He is a good, healthy eater who has lots of whole grains and vegetables. He is compassionate and empathetic. He wakes up and goes to bed happy. He has lots of friends.

We've certainly had some setbacks. In June, Max had a candy necklace that sent him in an emotional, tantrum-filled tailspin. Sometimes if he has too many berries or cucumbers, he gets moody. A dairy slip makes him very sad and emotional, quick to cry about things. Over the last seven months, we've learned to read our son's body and reactions like a book. We know by his behavior if something is bothering his stomach. Every day, he takes probiotics, Vitamin D drops, and a digestive enzyme. We are on the path of healing his gut, as it's called in FG-speak.

I decided to write this post for a couple of reasons. The first is because people are really skeptical of the Feingold Diet. They think it's a silly, earthy-crunchy alternative. Here's what you need to realize -- your child might not need the FG diet. Your child might not have the troubles my child did. Your child might be able to handle foods that contain dye or flavor that is made from petroleum (the same kind in gasoline.) That's fine for you. Seriously. You are very lucky. My commitment to my family and this diet has nothing to do with anyone else's eating. Feingold has changed our life for the better. For the best. We are indebted. The chemicals in processed food interact with my son's body like drugs -- they cause him to act in ways that are not driven by his brain, but by a drug induced state.

The other reason I'm posting this is because I know, I'm absolutely sure, that there are other parents who are sitting where I was in February, tears streaming down their cheeks, searching for some kind of miracle to save their child. FG was our miracle. It saved all of us and I am a true believer. And I am the single most cynical, skeptical person on earth.

If you are dealing with a child who has tons of allergies, negative behaviors, a compromised immune system, skin rashes, sensory issues (Max had this too -- its the chewing on the clothes thing), or dozens of other developmental concerns, the Feingold diet really is worth checking out. It's not easy, trust me, but it is life changing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Guest Post @ Oatmeal After Spinning

Head on over to and check out my guest post on food canning, one of my new loves!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Title Switch

So, clearly I changed the blog title -- I wasn't really married to the last one, but this is one that means a lot to me. It refers to a poem by contemporary poetry goddess Marrianne Moore called "Poetry." For years, it's been one of my compass's for writing (compassi?) -- I want the images to feel as real as if I could touch them.

Courtesy of, here is the poem.


By Marianne Moore

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against 'business documents and

school-books'; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
'literalists of
the imagination'--above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in them', shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.


I think this might be my favorite poem of all time -- do you have one?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back To School...

Above is a recent yearbook picture of me. It might be my least favorite part of being a teacher -- I hate getting my picture taken every year. It's as awkward as an adult as it was as a kid.

There is a lot that I love about teaching. I love teenagers. I mean, sure, they can be a pain just like anyone else. But frankly, between dealing with teens vs. adults, I'd choose teens every day of the week. Teenagers are less likely to be jaded. They still have hope for the future and believe, I mean REALLY BELIEVE, that they can do anything. This can be frustrating when you have a straight F student believing high school is a waste of time since he's going to be an NFL star...but, other than that, it's really great to be around people who've yet to be really disappointed by life. For the most part, they still hold their innocence.

I've said before that what I love best about YA is the inertia -- how quickly it moves, how much it says, how hard and fast it feels things. I live like that -- I was that way as a high schooler and I am that way now. I read and write the way my brain works. This means that, as a teacher of 15-17 year olds, I get to be surrounded by like minded people. Who could ask for more?

That being said, yes, I'm mourning the end of my summer. I am fretting over the fact that I'll be working on my option book and setting up a brand new teaching prep at the same time. I'm sort of kicking myself about taking on so much, which is what I always do -- I agreed to be joint advisor of the sophomore class this year and I'm teaching a Maryland State Department of Ed class to new teachers on Monday evenings. And keeping up with this blog. And tweeting. And raising my son. Loving my husband. And writing. Writing writing writing where ever it will fit.

I was reading a blog post by Ally Carter at some point in the last few weeks and she said something that I'm sure I'm going to misquote, but it was basically this: You need to choose whether you can worry about time or worry about money. As a writer, I've always been stressed about time. But I don't think I could stand worrying about how to pay the bills.

That is one motivation I have for staying gainfully employed as a teacher -- but it isn't the main one. The biggest motivation is this -- I'm surrounded by my reading audience every day. I get to hear them talk and laugh and tease each other. I'm always up on the latest slang. I know their inflections and their phonetics. I am constantly, inadvertently eavesdropping on the very people I'm writing about. For me, that's gold and isn't something I can trade.

I love teenagers. I enjoy being around them. One day, I do hope to be a full-time writer -- but now, I'm trying to relish the fact that I get to be with the people who are most like my characters. Even on days like this, when I dread giving up my life of summer leisure, I want to remember how fortunate I am.