In my experience, the minute you put a stake in the ground and say to the universe, “THIS is what I’m going to do,” the universe replies, “Oh yeah?  Well let’s just see about that…”

Last week was NaPiBoWriWee, or for the uninitiated, National Picture Book Writing Week, started by the fabulous Paula Yoo.  where participants are challenged to write one picture book a day for seven days.  In a previous post, I explained why I wanted to participate in this insane venture, and I pledged my goals.  So with a pure and hopeful heart, I set off to the library on the first day (Saturday, May 1) to tackle my most ambitious idea.  Six hours later, I emerged with a near-finished draft and a pile of research materials to enable me to finish that evening.  Super start!

The next day, Sunday, I again disappeared into a private writing cave to knock out my second story.  No problem.  Maybe this was going to be easier than I thought?  I was feeling supremely confident, now that the weekend was over.  It’s actually more difficult to find time to write on the weekends when I also have to coordinate around family time.  I figured it would be smooth sailing now that the work and school week was starting.  That assumption started off true enough since I’d “written” Monday’s story in my head in bed that night, so all I had to do was roll out of bed on Monday and write it down.

Then came Tuesday.  It was a warm, but exceptionally windy day.  Jay and I went straight from the house to the car and drove to his preschool.  I mulled over writing ideas for the day during the drive.  We got to the school, fought our way through the wind and past the door when I looked down at him.  That’s when I saw it.  “OH. MY. G-D!”  In the time I had taken us to drive the 15 minutes from home to school, his eyeball flesh had swollen out of his socket.  It looked like a hard-boiled egg.  How do you get swollen eyeball flesh?!?  He hadn’t cried or complained in the car, so I couldn’t imagine what happened.  I tried (unsuccessfully) to remain calm while the office staff helped me create a makeshift patch over his eye.  Then I raced him off to the doctor imagining the worst – eye infection, blindness, you name it.  Thankfully, the reality was much more benign.  Jay must have a seasonal allergy, and a fleck of pollen or something probably blew into his eye before getting into the car. Then he sat rubbing it in during the drive to school, creating the hard-boiled egg effect.  Ten minutes after receiving a dose of prescription eyedrops, he looked much better.  The next day, you could hardly even tell the eye was swollen.  Whew!  All’s well that ends well – except for the writing of course.  Instead of making up the time that evening as planned, I dealt with Em’s disaster for the day.  She had come home from school nearly hysterical over an incident with her best friend.  After an hour of soothing and comforting and wiping wet tears from her face, I brought her into bed with me so we could both fall asleep.

Wednesday, despite being nearly catatonic with fatigue, I wrote half of a new story before I realized I had to stop and go volunteer at Em’s school.  I also forgot that I had a meeting that evening.  After the meeting, I was forced against my will to go out and have a margarita in honor of Cinco de Mayo – okay, two margaritas!  Needless to say no more writing got done that day.

No problem.  I would make it up on Thursday.  Rocky was scheduled for surgery to have his dew claws removed, so I wouldn’t have to take time from writing to walk him or take him to the dog park.  I did have to volunteer at the school that morning, but I had the afternoon, so I thought.  Forgot, once again, that I had to pick Em up from school (usually she takes the bus).  (How did I survive before I had my iPhone beeping at me??)  Then I took her to ballet, and afterward we went together to pick Rocky up.  He’d done really well in surgery, and the vet gave us pretty simple instructions for the next 24 hours.

Vet: “No rigorous exercise.  Keep the bandages clean and don’t let him chew or lick them or they could get infected.  He’s been heavily medicated, so he’ll need lots of rest.  Again, only take him out to go the bathroom.  NO rigorous exercise!  Then bring him in tomorrow and we’ll remove the bandages.”

Me: “Yes sir.  I’m on it.  No rigorous exercise!”

Ever since Rocky came home from his doggie boot camp training, he’s been on an e-collar, which is how we are training him to come when called.  It was the last resort, but one we had to take because nothing else was working.  That’s probably one of the reasons why, when he bolted out the door within ten minutes of coming home from the vet, he was even more difficult to coax back than usual.  His manic joy at finding himself free plus the fact that he was doped up with morphine, Valium and some other pain killer made it nearly impossible to get him back.  We tried all the usual things: starting the car so he’d chase it, and then trying to lure him in with hot dogs.  Setting a “hot dog trail” up the driveway and through the door.  I even laid down in the street and played dead with hot dogs in each hand, but still he would not come.  After one hour of extremely vigorous exercise, I finally got him in the car.  His bandages were bloody, muddy and soaked.  Of course the vet’s office was now closed, so off we went to doggie ER.  Luckily he hadn’t damaged his stitches or re-opened the wound, so it was a simple matter of cleaning the incisions and re-bandaging his legs.  All to the tune of $125 – AFTER a $500 surgery.  Yeah, so I didn’t get any more writing done that day.  Instead I wished the vet had written me a prescription for Valium.

By Friday, the last day of NaPiBoWriWee, I had written 3 1/2 picture books.  Amazing how the week had imploded.  I had been keeping up with Paula and the other participants on her blog, so they all knew about my freakish week.  A kind and compassionate bunch, they would have understood if I had called it quits, and I was very, very tempted to quit.  After all, I wasn’t competing with anyone except myself.  And that’s when it hit me: it was certainly true that nobody else would care if I didn’t continue – but I would.  The fact is, when you are juggling 45 different roles in life, every week is going to be freakish in some way.  I tried to remember the last time I’d had a “normal” week, where the routine went forward as usual and nothing unexpected happened.  I couldn’t.  If I wanted to be a “real” writer, I reasoned, I would have to learn to use what scraps of time I was given instead of waiting for everything and everyone else to cut me a swath on a regular basis.

So I wrote.  I finished the story I’d started on Wednesday, and then I wrote another one – bringing my grand NaPiBoWriWee total to five picture books.  Which is, as a friend reminded me, five more than I started with at the beginning of the week.  I even got teary as I wrote the ending for the last one.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s horrible.  They all are.  That’s the purpose of first drafts.  But therein lies the beauty – now I get to work on them to create second and third drafts… and with each iteration the stories will, hopefully, be a little bit less horrible.

So, despite not reaching the original goal of writing 7 picture books, I put the NaPiBoWriWee “badge” on this post, and my coffee cup is on the way.  Because even though I didn’t “finish,” I did do my best.

Also, I’m glad I had that epiphany about fitting writing around life instead of the other way around, because this Saturday, instead of recovering from NaPi, I ended up taking Em to The Children’s Hospital for a neurological exam.  Thank goodness she’s fine, but it just proves the point once again: there is no such thing as normal – at least not in my life – but I can always strive to do my best with the abnormal.  Tell THAT to the Universe!

Categories: Children's Books, NaPiBoWriWee, Parenting, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , ,



  1. Goodness! I thought I had a busy week. You did well to get any writing done at all between swollen eyeballs and doggy surgery. You can definitely tote your coffee mug with pride when it arrives. Good luck with your revisions.

  2. I use How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend, by the Monks of New Skete (2nd edition) to train my dogs. I was not as consistent with this one as with the others so she does not always come right away. Bellowing does not work, so I raise my voice into a sweet high note and call her in an excited voice, and when she comes, I praise her lavishly. Then we go through her paces, sit, lie down, sit, stay, I walk off a little, and then tell her to come again. Do that a couple of times, with every obedient act lavishly praised. It reminds her she has to come and after that she does.
    In the book they suggest using a long rope to teach come. One person holds the dog, the other has the end of the rope. Let go of the dog and the rope person squats down and calls in a sweet enticing voice. If the dog doesn’t come drag him gently to you using the rope and then act like he did a great thing. lavish praise and pats. The hold the dog and toss the rope to the other person. Do it for say 10 minutes each day, and gradually it will work.
    That’s great that you got 5 first drafts. I am working on one.

    • Thanks for the training tips. We are in the process of getting a fence put in, and once we have that, it will be possible to do more extensive training sans e-collar. Ultimately the goal is to get him off of it, but he’s an escape artist, a hound dog, and we got him at age 1 – all things that make training more difficult. Luckily, we can get hot dogs at Costco!! 🙂

  3. What an emotionally crazy week you have endured. Being mother/homemaker is a juggle sometimes. The emotional burdens of caregiver and responsibility – not to mention the massive heart of love – can be heavy to carry.

    So proud of you, squeezing 5 PBs out of such a tumultuous week. And in truth – I am sure that the emotions in the chaos will be handy at some point in your writing career. Grist for the mill, and all that…

    Take care of your family – and YOU!

    • Kat,

      You are so sweet. Your comments, thoughts and encouragement throughout the week really helped me see it through! I hope you are right about the chaos rendering itself useful in the writing process. Stories would sure be boring if everything worked out all the time, right??

      Thanks again, and again – congrats to you on your 7!!!

  4. Whoa! As they say (whoever they are), life’s what happens when you make plans. Kiss your brain for hangin’ in there!

  5. What a good post, Julie. Not only did you write your PBs but you grew as a writer, learning more about your writing life.
    The challenge does help us to focus on writing but like so much in life, writing isn’t isolated. It’s mixed up with so many other bits of us and our entourage. You certainly had your share of bits last week!
    Congrats for digging in and getting so much done!

  6. Julie,

    Great job making it through the week with 5.5 stories. Now let them sit for a while and come back later to revise them into works of genius ready for submission!

    Your son’s allergic reaction reminds me of the first time our son was licked by a dog. It happened as we were leaving a friend’s house. Their dog, a beautiful chocolate lab, came over and licked our-then-infant all about the head. He giggled and grinned. We thought nothing of it, packed him up into the carrier and strapped him in the back of the car.

    A five-minute car ride later and his face, eye, and anywhere licked by the dog, was swollen and red. Frantic calls to the pediatrician, gentle washing and benadryl saved the day.

    Kids. What are you going do?

  7. Dude, once the vet slips you the dog-sized Valium, send some to me! That was an impressive week, my friend!

  8. littlehousesouthernprairie

    you are seriously doing a great job. hats off to you!

  9. Oh, my. This is hilarious (since everyone survived, that is) and absolutely true. I’m still waiting for that one perfectly calm, quiet, completely uninterrupted writing week. Congratulations on a truly impressive accomplishment!

    • Thanks Linda!

      For you readers/writers out there, Linda was on faculty at the Big Sur workshop, and we had a great time in her critique group. I also attended her workshop on rhyming a couple of months ago. She’s great and so are her books. Check out her website on my blogroll!

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