In Which Leo Composes a Christmas Letter. In May.

My son, deciding that one can never start too early for anything, has already composed his letter to Santa. In May. I’m pretty sure that, at seven, he’s already fairly cognizant that Santa and Parents are one and the same – a theory supported by the fact that his letter to Santa was sitting on the fluffed pillow of his perfectly-made bed (by his standards, of course; not anyone else’s). The note was written on large drawing paper, and then folded multiple times. On the top fold he wrote;


Then he wrote his name with a heart around it.

This is not, by any reasonable standard, a typically Leo-ish move. So of course I read the note.

Dear Santa,

(it said)

I am alreaidy planing on being a Good Boy. For Crismas I would like:

1. Star Wars Lego Sets (lots)

2. A real rocket.

3. A real racing car (with rockets)

4. A pet wale or dolfin or chiken.

5. A sack of gold. 

I hope you have been a Good Boy too.



Fortunately, I have been given enough time to seek out the best deals on the internet. So, there’s that.


Here is my desk. It is filled with rocks.

This is my desk. It is fairly new. Recently my darling husband took it upon himself to make me an office – with a door and everything. Shortly after, I took it upon myself to fill that office full of rocks.

Or, not full of rocks, exactly. But I put a pile of rocks on my desk. To play with.

And I do play with them. Every day. I spread them out, I make new piles. I balance them, one on top of the other. I make stacks.

I like the weight of the rocks in my hand, the variation in texture and heft, the cool solidity. I like the improbable ways in which they balance and lean. I like the delicacy in which they hold their wobbly structures before they roll off my desk and onto the floor. I like the fact that when I bring them to my nose, they still smell like Lake Superior.

Right now, I’m reworking the ending of a book I promised to my agent – oh, I don’t know. A year ago. I’m also wandering through the comments that he just gave me on another book. In one book, stones prevail – large stones, old stones, stones that talk. In the other story, the Great Lakes – though they are never named – are characters in the drama. As I work through both stories, I return, again and again, to my rocks. I think about the icy waves that shaped them. I think about the cold gray of the water as it stretches to the sky.

My rocks tell me not to worry so much.

My rocks tell me to give myself a break every once in a while.

My rocks care nothing for deadlines or reviews or Twitter or book sales or time-sucking social media. What is time to a stone? What is success to water? Granite holds no opinions and limestone carries no grudge. They simply are.

So here’s my question for you, dear readers: What’s on your desk? What is it, when you are in the fire of creativity or the smoke of self-doubt, what holds you down to the green, solid world?


Villainous Villains

We’ve been writing about heroes and villains in class this week, and, as was expected, the villains devised by my fourth graders are deliciously macabre and delightfully full of evil. Here are some examples:

A sinister police officer made entirely of boogers.

A sinister assistant principal with a necklace made of fingernails.

A mean old man down the road.

A very large chicken.

Octo-Man: part octopus, part man, all evil.

RubberMan: bullets bounce off of him; he cannot be punched; wants to bounce so high he cracks the world in half.

A diamond thief named Clive.

The Mathematician: because numbers are scary.

The Writer: a dreadful villain who discovers that every thing that he writes comes true. Naturally, he uses this ability to rule the world.

Mr. Gump: hooves for hands, and a general bad attitude.

The Meanest Pig: ’nuff said.

The Worm: A giant worm. It eats whole towns. It is not to be messed with.

The Zylons: sinister alien race. They eat children.

Bob: kid at school. Freckles, untied shoes, arsenal in the locker.

The Fairy Princess: as beautiful as she is sly; her tinkling laugh is a cover for nefarious schemes.

Giant ants.

Giant cockroaches.

Giant bees.

Giant Killer bees.

Dr. No-Good. Presumably up to no good.

The Teacher: turning students into minions. (Actually, this happens all the time.)

The Conductor: runs an amusement park that is also a portal to a forced labor colony. Cannot be stopped…..or can he?

The Butterfly: captured people and put them in cocoons, thereby turning them into butterflies.

Actually, now that I think about it, there are several people I can think of whose personalities and effects on the world would be greatly improved if they were transformed into butterflies. So I guess I’m Team Butterfly. How about you?

Heroes and Villains

It’s Day 3 in my fiction workshop at Chanhassen Elementary, and we are now studying Heroes and Villains. I’m ludicrously excited about what they come up with.

Yesterday, when I introduced the idea and told them to put their brains into high gear so that they’d be ready to go today, I told them a secret:

Villains are really, really fun to write. Maybe even more fun than heroes.

I also told them that every villain is a hero in his or her own mind. No one sets out to be the bad guy. And even good guys are interested in fame and glory and winning. Because really, who doesn’t like winning?

So today, they will be creating heroes and villains and putting them in action. And it’s gonna be awesome.

As we progress forward, I thought I’d put it to you, dear readers. Who are your favorite villains in literature? Who are your favorite heroes? And why on earth do they stick around in our heads and our hearts, long after we’ve closed the book, put it back on the shelf, and moved on?