Category Archives: Uncategorized

Family Vacation

Bondi Boys 2014We’ve been sitting around this evening comparing our adorable photos of the little ones. A two-year-old, a 16 month, and a 7 month all running around and keeping their parents up all night. The youngest one’s mother has made them all matching baseball shirts with their names on the back.

Tomorrow is our last full day at the lodge. Assuming the weather holds, my wife and I are going to take a canoe out to the waterfall, and canoe down the river and across the lake. It has been nice and cool every day that we’ve been here– a lovely vacation from Texas. Yesterday during the mile swim, the water was definitely warmer than the air!

I drove into town today to get thread to work on the BFF’s cross-stitch, and I’ve been doing a bit of drawing. Unfortunately, it’s ended up being a bit of a working vacation for me, and I haven’t had time to sit and relax as much as I would like. Ah to be a wee munchkin again!

Brother-in-law is taking photos of everyone to make a photo book for the two-year-old. It will be a really beautiful project when it’s completed, and I’ve loved seeing all the portraits in progress. It’s nice to have everyone up all at the same time. I can’t think of the last time I’ve made it up here when everyone else was visiting.

It’s hard to believe the week has flown by so quickly already.




State of the Cait

ImageThe big news for February is that we’re probably not leaving Austin this summer. I am torn about this. I miss my family, and I miss living up north.But there are good practical reasons to stay in Texas for another couple of years, and so, we remain.

We had our first skating competition of the year, and came in first in the little old lady division. I was really happy with how I skated overall, and am excited that, with this competition out of the way, we are starting to learn the long program for our competition in May. I am also starting to work on a couple of solo dance programs, and one individual footwork program. Which will probably be the first time in over twenty years that I have competed solo!

Meanwhile, I started taking an aerial silks class. I have never had much upper body strength, and this stuff is hard! I have bruises in all sorts of interesting and strange places! But it’s also really cool, and I am very much enjoying just getting to do something so very different from my normal habits and routines.

I have been working on some new jewelry patterns, learning how to cut wood and acrylic pieces using a machine laser cutter. Hopefully I will start to have things up for sale in late spring, now that I have finally found a good studio space for me to do metalwork. Question: In the 21st century, does anyone still wear brooches? Or is it all necklaces these days?

In horrific news (the good kind of horror!) I will soon be writing a weekly post for The Midnight Society. I can’t wait, and was thrilled to be asked to join their team. I have also been thinking a lot about ghosts in picture books, and whether one can have truly realistic ghosts in those stories, the kind that aren’t just sheets with faces, but, you know, actual dead people. I think you can, I just haven’t quite figured out how. I haven’t read it, but The Bake Shop Ghost by Jacqueline Ogburn seems like it might be the kind of thing I am thinking about.

No writing classes at the moment, but hopefully that will change by this summer as well. So much to do, so little time!

Life With Chronic Pain: A True Story

Fuzzy pants. Two pair of socks. 6 spine and hip pillows, carefully arranged. Two fleece blankets, one knee support pillow. Heating pad. Top of feet pillow, with laptop for more weight and warmth, lap pillow to support journal. Pain meds, an arrangement of books and other entertainment while stationary. Finally get everything arranged, and then realize you forgot your compression and fingerless gloves (yes, two pair of gloves, to match the socks) on the other side of the room. Cry.

October Classes

I am teaching 2 new classes this October! I’ve made them easy to sign up for through a new group called Stories and Stuff. If you live in Austin, you should join the group. It is going to be awesome. The classes I am teaching are:

Introduction to Writing Picture Books:

Fascinated by the children’s section of the library? Still find yourself agreeing with Alice’s thought that “what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations”? In this 4 week class we will jump down the rabbit hole of writing stories for the very young. Artists and illustrators are welcome, but no artistic skills are required, we’re just here for the words.

Week 1: List books

Never tried to write a picture book before? No problem! Week one is alphabet and list books, proving that everyone who knows 1-10 and their ABCs has a story inside them. We will work together on the difficult quandary of “X” and talk about themes and story cohesion– what makes a “good” alphabet book? There’s a lot more here than xylophones!

Week 2: Luck

In this class we will work to dissect the “luck” book and follow it with our own examples. In doing so, we will cover all the most important elements of story writing– for picture books as well as longer pieces. We will also cover pacing and the narrative importance of turning the page. Watch out, there’s a monster at the end of this class!

Week 3: Bedtimes

When do we read to children? During story hour– and bedtime. Week three is a discussion of the bedtime book, how to tell a story that gets us ready for bed– without putting the storyteller to sleep too!

Week 4: Surrealism

A picture is worth a thousand words, and a good picture book is worth reading a thousand times. For our final week, we’ll explore some of the bizarre worlds of classic picture books and answer the question “what if my strangest ideas were suddenly made real?”

Duration: 4 Weeks
Cost: $100
Dates: Saturdays 10/5, 10/12, 10/19, 10/26
Time: 3-5pm
Location: Trinity United Methodist Church, 4001 Speedway, Austin TX 78751
Sign up through Meetup

Nothing but Prompts

Need to refill your creative juicebox? Always “wanted to write something” but don’t know what it is? Looking for that spark of an idea to get you going for this year’s NaNoWriMo? This four week class is designed to get you out of a creative rut and get you writing again. Tons of in-class writing activities all hand-selected from over two decades of creative writing classes– good for both beginner writers and battle-weary wordsmiths alike.

Week 1: What Would You Do?

What does your character want? How badly do they want it? And what won’t they do to get it? The student that brings in klondike bars for the rest of the class gets an extra gold star.

Week 2: Strange Juxtapositions and Arresting Images

Confusion can be a great motivator. We need the world to make sense. When it doesn’t, we’ll invent a reason that it does.

Week 3: Location

Setting isn’t just a place, it’s a state of mind.

Week 4: That’s What She Said

When characters talk to each other, they sometimes say things that even the author didn’t know. Prepare to be surprised.

Duration: 4 Weeks
Cost: $100
Dates: Thursdays 10/3, 10/10, 10/17, 10/24
Time: 6-8pm
Location: Trinity United Methodist Church, 4001 Speedway, Austin TX 78751
Sign up through Meetup

Cat Is Out of the Bag

I am the new assistant for Bree Ogden over at D4EO Literary Agency. I’ve spent the weekend responding to queries, and now feel like a PROFESSIONAL dream crusher. So thankful to have Maria Vicente available for handholding and extra guidance!

Because of all of this work from Bree, I have been thinking a lot about the intersection between horror and paranormal. The recent spike in sparkling vampires and cuddly werewolves has moved a lot of the traditional supernatural horror characters into a category that contains basically no horror elements at all. So I wonder– can vampires even BE scary anymore? Or are we left with only zombies as the last remaining supernatural horror not tainted by a desire to love and understand their dark and mysterious ways? I guess there’s still nuclear monsters– Godzilla and friends– and their decedents, GMO monsters made from a gene-splicing Frankenstein. Even still, I am left feeling that the list of things that go bump in the night is quickly dwindling.

Meanwhile… I applied to work with Bree because of her involvement with Underneath the Juniper Tree magazine. If y’all are not reading this thing, you are very seriously missing out. And for the writerly types, the next round of submissions is due September 13th. (That’s a Friday. Friday the 13th. Don’t forget.) I don’t have anything to do with assisting on magazine duties, but I strongly (STRONGLY) suggest that you submit (and read) the next issue. Because it will be awesome.

Other cool haunted halloween news for writers:

Everyone get their name in for Pen & Muse’s Dark Carnival Writer and Illustrator Showcase. Do it. Do it. It is going to be awesome. There are so many good names on this thing, and so many fabulous topics, I can’t wait. Soon, maybe, I will start posting hints about my knife throwing story. If y’all are good. If not…

State of the Cait

Changes are coming to the website. I hope to move things over to soon. If not, expect things around here to at least start looking a little different. Which, to be honest, it’s about time. I haven’t made any visual changes to my blog since… 2010?

I’m teaching two writing classes in October. There will be more details coming in the very near future. Spread the word, get excited. Fabulous things are on their way.

Read two amazing new short stories by Ashly Nagrant today. I am hoping to return the favor and send two new ones of mine to her soon. What I am really hoping for, though, is that these new ones by her get put in an anthology soon, so that I can inflict them on other people.

I am doing another Very Cool Thing that I do not yet have direct permission to talk about. Sorry to tease.

I took a class in metal smithing and cold connections for jewelry this summer from Kim St. Jean. Since then, I have been thinking up plans for a jellyfish necklace and an awesome steampunk mardi gras mask. Also, many ideas for bracelets. It might finally be time for me to open an etsy shop.

Just started Suzanne LaFleur‘s new book, Listening for Lucca. I think it’s her best one yet, and I’m only on page 25! I can’t wait to share it with my sister at Christmas, as she is an even bigger fan of LaFleur’s works than I am.

Tired of Typing

I need a new computer. Or rather, a new computer would improve my quality of life. The old one still works, and for that I am grateful. But it has gotten a bit slow, a bit fussy. Prone to overheating, not so good at running for extended periods without freezing and crashing, unable to handle the load of someone multi-tasking through multiple programs at once.

At the same time, my computer usage has changed. I have a smart phone, and a tablet. I tweet from my phone, I read on my tablet, and I do a fair bit of web browsing from both. Which means my laptop has gone from the fun place where I spend all my free time to where I go to work.

This in turn makes me prone to stall. To avoid “butt in chair”. The computer is no fun anymore, and that makes the writing itself a drag.

But not writing, of course, is even worse. So instead I have been working on things old school, pens and pencils, loseleaf and notebooks. It has been a disorganized mess, but it has felt good, freeing.

And so wonder if all of this is also just a metaphor. My computer freezing up, not handling the multi-tasking as well as it once used to. Am I switching back to paper, not because my computer is so old and slow, but because I am the one needing the break?

I bought a new notebook today. It is purple.

My computer is feeling mighty jealous.

Sometimes uninspired

Botanical gardens

I am a person who likes to keep multiple projects juggling at once, on the belief that it means that when I get bored or stuck on the one, I can switch to something else, while my subconscious percolates on the project that is tripping me up.

Every so often, it backfires though. I look around at a whole room of things “in progress” and wonder what I am doing here, and feel unsure of where to start, and paralyzed.

This afternoon has been one of those days.

Finding Other Small Fish

This post was inspired by Ellie Di, who if you don’t know and worship already, you’re missing out on something fabulous.

At the end of February, I was feeling very discouraged about the internet. I had been reading too many of the comments, not having good human connections, and even my sacred internet safe space (y’all know who you are) had gotten more and more quiet and less fun to interact with.

My husband has a motto: “If you’re feeling unloved, it’s a sign that you need to be more demonstrative in your own affection.” So, after a month of hiding out, and after who-knows-how-long puttering around waiting for others to entertain me online, I decided to make a point of spending more time on twitter interacting, instead of just lurking or whining.

As luck would have it, that very same day Ellie Di tweeted, wanting to know if twitter was dead, and why was nobody commenting anymore. Various ideas were thrown out. A lot of them were about the proportion of promotional tweets. Some of it was backlash against too much branding, or feeling like the good community that used to exist on twitter had gotten buried in just too many voices talking at once.

I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since. (I am excellent at stewing.) The conclusion I have come to, after many days of pondering, is that part of the problem is trying to find other people to talk to. Everyone follows the same few celebrities, and we tweet at them almost incessantly. Whole twitter accounts are formed just to shout at Lady Gaga, hoping that maybe one day you’ll catch her at the right moment for her to send you 140 characters in return.

Maybe you follow a couple of “minor celebrities” as well, people with only a couple of thousand followers, people who have time to interact with most people who message them. But they still don’t have time to follow-back, to do anything other than respond when they are tweeted to, or to start the conversation.

Which leaves a whole lot of people, like me, who can respond to anything, but can’t start a conversation themselves. People who I know are interesting. People who I would love to interact with. But how do you find them? We’ve gotten past the days when strangers made new life-long friends after a couple of “that lunch looks tasty” tweets. Now it’s a bit strange to get new followers out of the blue. The first question is “what are they selling? what are they trying to promote?” And that seems rather backwards.

So since I’ve been back, I’ve been searching for new faces. Looking at the other people who respond to Ellie Di, and following them. Following people who tweet at Chuck Wendig or Olga Nunes. Paying careful attention to the people with a mere hundred or two followers. Trying to make friends. Trying to reach out.

If we wait for the celebrities to support us, we will wait forever for our turn in line. If we can find each other, and say hello, we will all stand that much stronger. We’re only as lonely as we make ourselves out to be.

Thanks to the Mentors

This morning I read a very moving post by S. Jae-Jones about writing/creative mentors that got me thinking about the important people who have mentored me. I write this with some trepidation after Amanda Palmer’s somewhat crushing recent encounter with a former mentor who recently went on to trash her in the comments of her TED talk. Things change, people change, and you can’t always trust that the respect and gratitude felt as a mentee is returned by the poor soul that put up with your artistic flounderings.

And boy, was I floundering when these fine people put up with me. (Often, I feel like I am still floundering now, even as I am slowly becoming the mentor to other writers!)

My very first writing mentor was David Blixt. I was only 11 or 12 years old at the time, and boy was I awkward. At writing. At everything. At talking with adults. But my mother signed me up for a community writing class for children, and I must have taken that class, 2-3 times a year, for about four years. When I first signed up for David’s class, I didn’t know fiction meant you were allowed to make up stories. I think I spent four or five weeks doing Writing Down the Bones exercises that just involved “I don’t know anything about this”.

Finally, it clicked, though. And life has never been the same since.

David introduced me to Jonathan Carroll stories, quoting from memory the beginning of Sleeping In Flame about regret, a story opening that will always be in my top three story openings. (The other two are the beginning to Conversations in Sicily and If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler… but more on that latter one in a bit!) It was my first introduction to “urban fantasy”– the idea that something could be set in the real world, and yet be fantastical as well was entirely new to me, and I plowed through all of Carroll’s stories in a couple of months, and never really recovered.

He also put up with the worst of my surrealist/dadaist middle-school nonsense as I wrote stories about drunk pineapples, and created a 30+ page “never ending sentence” full of non sequitur run-ons. These things were not his fault. What was his fault was his encouragement to keep going, and his persistence in getting me “butt on chair” to do the writing, when, like most 14-year-olds, I was bouncing all over the room and wanting to chat up a storm instead.

David and I parted ways when I went to high school, but I found him again today on twitter. I also found my second mentor on twitter, the fabulous Dean Bakopoulos. Dean signed up to teach a class on writing at my high school, and looking to replace the hole of no longer having David’s class, I quickly enrolled.

(It’s not particularly relevant to this story, but it was in Dean’s class where I fell in love with my husband. Dean brought out the best in both of us as writers, and while I will already admit that I had a crush, it was really the stories my husband wrote in that class that turned things serious!)

Dean introduced me to Italo Calvino, and particularly to If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. He took the undirected surrealism I had brought with me from middle school and channeled it into flash fiction pieces that had punch and structure. We read Chuck Rosenthal‘s “The Nicest Kid in the Universe” and debated the role of the narrator’s mother at the end of the piece.

Most importantly, Dean got me asking the question “What’s at stake?” A refrain that I heard for years afterwards, in every writing class I ever took, Dean’s introduction to the idea helped me turn odd into meaningful, and gave me the needed philosophy to understand and analyze any stories I ran across.

Dean, I’m sorry that every time you said the phrase “what’s at stake” I wanted to turn it into a joke about what was “in the steak”. I was 15. I didn’t mean it.

He also had us read Billy Aronson‘s play Little Red Riding Hood. Wickedly funny stuff. It instilled in me a love of word-play that has gone right into my poetry, and has never left me alone ever since. Eyelid melon Friday, if I do say so myself.

There have been others, too, of course. Geeta Kothari taught me most of what I know about revision. Everything I don’t know about revision isn’t her fault– she tried, she really did. And Jeffrey Steiger taught me something indescribable about living the written word– the narrative difference that is equivalent to painting from a photograph versus painting from life.

I wish I had had more time to work with Shelley Jackson while I was living in New York. She was the “mentor that got away”– I was too shy, too intimidated by her talent to request more of her attention. I wish I had had the nerve. What I did learn from her sticks with me in every story I write. She made ideas exciting again, at a time when I was otherwise pretty burned out.

So thank you to the mentors, the giants I’ve stood on. I’m not sure what there is to see yet, but it’s thanks to you that I have a view.