Category Archives: Nancy Tandon
From: Out to Play
August 10, 2012 at 09:30AM
Hi! I’m happy you have found me. Please join me at my new blog address, here. Come on over! I hope you like what you see.
Thank you to all who have supported me in my blog endeavor. A special thank you to my “followers.” I’d be honored if you would continue to follow me at my new venue.
From: Out to Play
July 12, 2012 at 06:40AM
My 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Williams, took attendance by barking our last names, then asking, “prepared or unprepared?” You were to answer “prepared” if you had done last night’s homework, or studied the topic at hand, or completed a project. All others were to answer, “unprepared.”
I was 1) a nerd and 2) really afraid of Mr. Williams, so I always answered “prepared.” The kids who were brave enough to answer “unprepared” were met with his steely glare, but then he would nod and move along to the next name. The worst was if you said prepared, but were later outed as unprepared. He had no tolerance for that, and vengeance was swift. No one left that class with any doubt that honesty is the best policy.
When my kids got off the bus on the last day of school, I was excited for summer. I was prepared. We had camps lined up, outings planned, berries to pick, and swim lessons to enjoy. Summertime and the livin’ is easy was playing in a loop in my brain.
It took just a few days of heat, humidity, and togetherness to change that tune to Crazy Train. One moment, the kids are bickering like cranky old men, and the next they are cheering as both sets of ears hear the ice cream truck. Parenting in the summer can be blissful and frenetic, all in the same day. A few weeks in, I’m finally willing to admit: I was unprepared. Unprepared for the incredible longing I feel for a moment alone. Unprepared to play so many games of Battleship, all in a row. Unprepared to just let go and see where the day takes us.
Maybe that’s the best way to approach summer. With a little less structure and a little more flow. A little more ice cream for lunch and a little less schedule. That way, when the natives get restless, I can get restless right along with them, and set off for an adventure that no one prepared for, just for the fun of seeing what happens.
Sorry, Mr. Williams, but when it comes to parenthood, my answer is: unprepared!
From: Out to Play
June 28, 2012 at 07:31AM
I’m feeling very grateful to NESCBWI (the New England chapter of The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators) for their commitment to helping new writers get plugged in to local critique groups. It was through this channel that about a year and a half ago I walked on shaky knees into a meeting of other children’s book authors. I remember clutching my notebook like it was my mom’s hand and I was headed to my first day at Kindergarten. And just like school, I was greeted by smiling people who have turned into wonderful friends and teachers.
One of the most important things you can do to improve your writing is to take the scary step of reading it aloud to other people, with the hope that they will tear it apart and tell you what’s wrong with it! If you have taken this step: bravo for brave you! A critique group is ideally friendly, as mine is, but not so friendly that they are not going to steer you away from dangerous cliffs, such as confusing dialogue or repetitive adjectives. The most helpful comments are usually “gently ruthless.”
Author Marion Roach Smith, in her slim but powerful book The Memoir Project, A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing and Life, recommends you try to find a place between “nastiness” and “uber-kindness,” as the former doesn’t move you forward, and the latter “kills excellent writing.”
She also cautions against turning to family members for feedback, as “…gratuitous support begins at home, where reading your work to someone who depends on you for food, shelter, or sex can garner only one response: ‘Nice,’ or worst of all, ‘Neat!'”
Trust me, you really don’t want people to tell you your first draft is “great!” So, take the plunge. Seek out some people who don’t care what you made for dinner, but do care about helping you elevate your work. If you are looking for a critique group, you often have to look no further than Google to hit on some good online support. I prefer the face-to-face kind, because so much of what is being communicated can be picked up through someone’s tone of voice or flicker in their eyes. It’s not always what you want to hear, but it usually is what you need to hear.
You might get as lucky as me, and a few years later, find yourself sitting around a cozy farmhouse kitchen table, surrounded by a fantastic group of talented pre-published writers (and one published author, sharing her beacon of light and hope!), swirling a glass of wine and thinking, “so this is what it feels like to realize a dream!”
From: Out to Play
June 14, 2012 at 12:58PM
|(n): a person who likes foreigners or all things foreign|
I’ve got a real thing for the people, foods, and customs of cultures different from my own. Even though I could have been the kid sister of Beaver Cleaver, I was not sheltered from the global world. Foreign exchange students, graduate students from other countries passing through on their way to higher study, and foreign business associates of my father’s frequently stayed with us (or at least came to dinner).
I learned early on, thanks to my mom’s adventurous cooking, to appreciate foods that delighted my tongue with unique and new tastes. I remember her rolling her own egg rolls, and flattening and frying chapatis to serve with Indian food cooked for a birthday feast. What a lucky child I was.
I’m an even luckier grown up, to have married a man who brings such rich culture to our pairing. As I like to say to him, “you had me at samosa.” Thanks to my German mother-in-law and Indian father-in-law, our children are exposed to people and places well beyond what I saw at my dining room table, and that excites me.
I’m happy to say that it seems that publishers of picture books are beginning to broaden their depiction of our global world, as well. However, there is a lot of room for growth. In a recent article, (Diversity: Everybody in the Pool! – SCBWI Bulletin May/June 2012), author Suzanne Morgan Williams points out that “more than 90 percent of children’s/YA books published in the US in 2010 were by white authors and illustrators, and about white protagonists.”
I can name a few books with diverse voices from when I was young, including Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel, and of course the controversial Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman. (We cringe now at the political incorrectness, and apparently Helen does too, as she has rewritten the story as The Boy and The Tigers). All I remember was being fascinated by that pool of butter.
For my own children, there were many more choices. Some of their favorite books that included diverse cultures were:
Something Special, by Nicola Moon
It took me about a minute after hearing my sister-in-law’s phone message to take action. I needed a moment to process what she was saying, and to get my head around the changes it would make to my day. You see, she was experiencing the “perfect storm” of the working mom: your child is sick on a day that both you and your husband absolutely, positively, cannot stay home. Where do you turn?
Some of the most stressful memories of my early parenting days revolve around this very dilemma. We didn’t live near any family; not the ones you could turn to when your child is sick. My husband, Raj, was mired in surgical residency. Every sick day fell on me to figure out.
As irony (or fate?) would have it, in the days just prior to my sister-in-law’s call, I had been working on my memoir of the time Raj was a resident, and had just finished revising the chapter on balancing kids with work. I had just been looking at these words:
From: Out to Play
May 24, 2012 at 11:31AM
From: Out to Play
May 17, 2012 at 09:03AM
We’ve all been there. You can tell the moment you answer the door that this person is there to sell you something. Usually magazines. Sometimes new windows. Or the deal of a lifetime on a lawn care system. Almost always, I’m pretty militant about sending them on their way. I don’t even open the door, just shout a hearty, “NOT INTERESTED, THANK YOU!” and watch them fumble with their pamphlets as I move back into the safety of my house.
But today was different. For one thing, I was outside, weeding. Nowhere to hide. For another thing, the woman who approached me (for the record, yes – she was selling magazines) started with her life story instead of her sales pitch. Or maybe that was her sales pitch. Who knows. But whatever it was, today was different.
“I never thought I’d be going door to door,” she told me, after introducing herself. She said she was in a job training program through a nationwide organization (that much, I later confirmed, was legit).
“I’m working hard to finish this program and prove to the state that I am stable enough to get my kids back.” Uh-huh, okay, what are you selling, and how much is it going to cost me? Still, there was something in her eyes. She looked so tired. I stood up, brushed off my knees, and moved toward her. Maybe her story was real, maybe not. Without a door to shut between us, I figured the least I could do was make eye contact with her.
Then she seemed to deviate from her script. She told me she had recently been hospitalized after being beaten by her long-time boyfriend. She kicks herself for not listening to her 12-year-old daughter who begged her to leave him. And she was working hard to get her life in order so that she could get her kids out of the foster care system, where they’d been ever since the beating.
This is where the hairs on my arms and neck stood up. Sadly, I know this is not an uncommon story. However, the particular familiarity of it was freaking me out. I felt like one of the characters in Lynda Mulally Hunt’s newly published One For the Murphys (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books) was standing in my driveway and talking to me.
Here is an overview of the story (From Barnes and Noble, One For the Murphys):
“A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family’s love. Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she’s blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong—until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She’s not really a Murphy, but the gifts they’ve given her have opened up a new future.”
But lately…I’ve been wondering. What do heated leather seats feel like? How would it be to not fret every time it snows? Is it time to sign the Do Not Resuscitate order?
“Mom, your car smells funny,” says my daughter one day (as she was eating and dropping popcorn in equal amounts in the back seat).
“I know,” I say, “but it’s the car I brought you home from the hospital in!”
“Mom, your car is so small,” says my son, complaining that I cannot take his friend home with us from a birthday party.
“I know,” I say, “but we can fit into almost any parking spot!”
The fact that money does not grow on trees aside, I wonder why I’m so attached to this little, smelly vehicle.
I wonder the same thing about a little picture book manuscript that has been traveling around with me for two years. After it’s 12th revision and 5th rejection, it’s starting to get a little smelly.
“Not everything gets published,” says one of my critique group members.
I know, but it’s the story that started me on this path, I think.
“Maybe you could re-work this for a parent’s magazine,” says an editor.
I know, but if I could just (grunt) make it (grunt) fit (grunt) here, I think.
I know there is a difference between giving up and letting go. But I worry: if I let go of this manuscript, am I giving up on my dream? And if I let go of this old car, am I giving up my link to the younger me, that part of my life that could still be called ‘new’ (new job, new mother, new wife)…?
Maybe I’ll take that manuscript out for just one more spin before I admit to myself that the silence I’m hearing is the “click” of an ignition failure. If I can get past this, I bet I’ll love those leather seats!
It’s National Picture Book Writing Week! NaPiBoWriWee was created by Paula Yoo four years ago as a way to motivate herself and to help market a new book she had coming out. The concept is to challenge yourself to write 7 picture books in 7 days. You “sign up” by visiting Paula’s blog and sharing comments with others who have committed to being productive this week. This is NOT about writing a polished, publishable manuscript. That would be impossible. What’s encouraged is to try to get seven manuscripts down onto the page; ideas you can then spend the rest of the year revising and polishing. So far I’m “one for one,” and am looking forward to seeing what happens on days 2-7!
I met a woman a few years ago who had an idea for a picture book but never wrote it down. When I asked her why, she said frankly that it was because she was afraid this was her one and only idea, and she was nervous that once she let this one idea go, (by writing it down), she’d be lost.
What I have found, however, is the more time I allow myself to be creative, the more my brain gets ‘in that mode’ and starts cranking things out. Sometimes I’d actually like to shut the idea machine off, so I can get a good night’s rest, for example, or drive from point A to point B without having to speak into my voice recorder. My nightstand used to be littered with scraps of paper, until I finally had the bright idea to just leave a notebook there. Sometimes jotting down a few words will quiet the machine, sometimes I have to fully wake up and write for awhile before the brain settles down.
In preparation for NaPiBoWriWee, you can take notes, make outlines, and otherwise prepare for the task. Last week, I sat down with a long thin piece of scrap paper and before I even had a chance to filter them, four topics spilled onto the page. I’ve been so focused on revision lately that I didn’t realize how anxious my brain was to get those ideas out. This week is like a little mini-vacation from what I consider the hardest work of writing (revision). I’ll enjoy allowing myself time to focus on the fun part – starting a story and letting the fingers fly!
If you are reading this and you’ve always had an idea for a picture book, or any book, this is your time! Use NaPiBoWriWee as an excuse to stop making excuses! Write it down! But be careful – you may wake up the idea machine. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
From: Out to Play
April 25, 2012 at 10:03AM
The Prickly Barnacle
You prickly, tickly barnacle
Clinging to me as you push away
Tearing my flesh as you flail about
Sending me on a windswept wave
Of confusion and frustration
You prickly, tickly barnacle
Let’s rest here in this cove
You can hide in your crusty cave
And I’ll protect your softness
You prickly, tickly barnacle
Scrape me all you want
We both know you couldn’t live
Relax, you little barnacle
Nature’s strongest adhesive
A mother’s love
Will never let you go
From: Out to Play
April 18, 2012 at 08:41AM
For years, I was that person at the cocktail party (or in my case, backyard barbecue), saying “I’m going to write a book someday.” I let that dream percolate on the back burner so long, it almost got lost among the diapers and therapy reports and tax documents of life. It sat and sat and sat, patiently waiting.
How ironic, then, that as soon as I turned my attention to my dream in full, I expected it to come true pretty much immediately. Actually, I thought I had a fairly good idea of the hard work it would take. I wasn’t completely naive, but in hindsight my thought process was as simple as: Poof! Book written. Poof! Book published.
After an initial period of discouragement, I began to embrace the process of educating myself. The more I learn, the more I realize how unrealistic my expectations were. However, far from being a “dead end,” the journey of finding my way has become a very fun and pleasant walk down “Hope Lane.”
One of the best things I’ve done, and encourage all others who aspire to write books for children to do, is join the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). This is a group of people, led by industry professionals, that exists to help educate, encourage, and celebrate children’s authors. Through my membership, I was able to connect with a local critique group. Once a month, I make a happy stop on “Hope Ln.” and get together with other children’s writers and enjoy getting and giving feedback on our work.
The SCBWI also runs fantastic conferences. In two days, I’ll be heading to the NE (New England) SCBWI Spring conference in Springfield, MA. Being together in one place with like-minded people can be inspiring. It also reminds me how much I have to learn. The encouragement/discouragement roller coaster is at it’s most dramatic when I prepare for a conference. Reading the “faculty” bios is like reading a “who’s who” in children’s literature. Doubt: I will never have a list of book titles and publication dates after my name! Hope: Going to this conference is a positive step towards my goal.
I don’t know how long Hope Lane is. However, as long as I don’t fall off the roller coaster, and I keep putting one word in front of the other, I know it won’t be a Dead End.
From: Out to Play
April 12, 2012 at 12:48PM
I’ve been noticing a lot of parallels between being a mom and being a writer. First, you create these characters. You get to pick out their names. You have high hopes for them, and you know pretty much the path you want them to go down. You think they are perfect! Then, kids (and characters) start having their own opinions. Wait, what are you doing? I often want to say, to both sets – my real ‘characters’, and the ones on the page.
Before I gave myself permission to sit down and begin writing in earnest, I read over and over about authors who commented that their characters were ‘in charge’. Honestly, that never made sense to me. Aren’t you the one writing the words? I’d wonder. However, as I spend increasingly more time in the land of character development, I realize that this generalization exists for a reason. When I’m writing, I like to stare out the window while I think. Sure enough, in those thoughtful moments, characters will change on me. For example, it will occur to me that the guy who I thought was going to detest the new kid has a lot in common with her and might even kind of like her. A lot of these ideas actually do “surprise” me.
So, I’m sort of in control, but not really. I find it’s startlingly the same with my kids. I set up parameters for food choices, amount of TV watching, and bedtimes. I encourage (or discourage) friendships. I think I’m doing most of the things I should be doing, then BAM! they lead themselves, and me, down a different path.
I make a lot of mistakes in both writing and parenting. Both jobs are fraught with the potential for error. In the past three weeks I’ve gotten another rejection from an editor, and have (on separate occasions) made both of my kids cry. The rejection was totally warranted; I had sent out a manuscript that was several revisions away from having any right to see the light of day. With the kids, it was painful to know that something I said had hurt their little feelings. Sometimes I feel so discouraged and wonder, am I doing any of this right?
Obviously, I’m not doing all of it right, but I do know I’m trying. I model for my kids what it is to give a sincere apology. I help them learn that no one is perfect (this lesson seems to be on auto repeat) and that everyone has room for growth. On the writing side, I read, I talk to other writers, I go to conferences, and I work and work and work to shape the best stories I can.
I hope that once they leave my care, I’ll have given my kids and my characters enough. I want all of my “babies” to go out into the world and make it just a little bit better, on whatever level they can. I want them to be ‘good stories’, ones that encourage others, or somehow lighten their loads. I hope that all who meet them will accept their flaws. Most of all, I hope they never forget that while it wasn’t always perfect, they were born from a place of love and hope.
P.S. It helps to have a life partner who lifts you up when you’re feeling that all you are doing is making mistakes. Here is an excerpt from my currently-being-revised memoir, S.O.S.: Help! My Significant Other is a Surgeon!
“I was such a bad mom today,” I tell Raj later that night.
“Why?” he asks, not believing me.
“Well, for one thing, I left my sick kid with a sitter, then I fed her fast food for dinner, and I also let her watch way too much TV.” All three seemed like major transgressions to me, so far from where I thought I would be when I had previously imagined myself as a parent.
“Look,” Raj says to me, “did you smoke crack today?”
“No! Of course not!”
“Did you get drunk and pass out so that when your baby fell off the bed and hit the baseboard heater, you never woke up, and only realized hours later that the baby was screaming and had third degree burns?” he says, describing a scenario he had dealt with at work just that day.
“Honey, you are not a bad mother.”
From: Out to Play
April 06, 2012 at 09:26AM
As a mom, I am faced with numerous questions every day. Many are innocuous, such as the kind that start with “do you know where my…?”
Then there is the easy to answer variety:
“Can I have an air rifle?”
“Can I watch Terminator?”
“Are you ever going to be normal like the other moms?”
“No. Wait – what do you mean by that?”
“You know, let us say words that only you think are bad, like stupid?”
“Oh, okay. NO.”
Every once in awhile you get the big questions; the ones you wish you had a better answer to, or the ones you wish you would never have to answer at all:
“What’s so good about Good Friday?”
“Why is that man smoking when you told us smoking can kill you?”
“When I’m a dad, will Grampy be able to play with my kids?”
Even harder than these tough questions, for many parents, is the ultimate, unavoidable, inevitable line of questioning that sparks the beginning of the end of the wonder years:
“Mom, are you the tooth fairy?”
“Is the Easter Bunny real?”
(and, panic rising in voice): “Is Santa real?”
My friend Holly recently dodged the tooth fairy bullet and wrote about it for Mamalode.com: A Fairy Weak Link. I wish, wish, wish I had read her article before I got the same question from my daughter, Kate. About a month ago, I made the classic mistake of falling asleep before switching tooth for coin under Kate’s pillow. In the morning, Kate came into my room and said with indignation, “The tooth fairy never came last night!”
In that dazed state of partial wakefulness, I took a full 30 seconds of plead-the-fifth silence, grasping at any plausible answer. I found none. “Ummmm….” was all I could muster before Kate pressed on.
“I’ve been wondering for awhile now. I mean, how come all the spoiled kids get $10 and $20 when all I ever get is a dollar coin? So, are the parents doing that? It seems like it’s you…” she let her voice fade off.
In that moment, she seemed so mature, so ready for what I was about to say. The morning sun was glinting off her long hair, and the curve of her face just looked so, well, grown up, that I forgot the golden rule of parenting in the wonder years (DENY!) and said, “Okay. Yes. It’s me. I fell asleep and forgot to do it last night. I’m sorry.”
The reaction wasn’t pretty.
“MOM!” Kate said, horrified, “I said I was WONDERING!” Then came the tears. “Why did you tell me that??”
So, for at least the 12th time this year, I rescinded my application for Mom of the Year. I was able to do some backpedalling, based on notes the tooth fairy had written her that were not (NOT) in my handwriting, “Well…I don’t know about those….maybe that part of her is real?” It was weak, but she seemed to buy it, and I realized she wanted to buy it. She wanted to still believe. I owed her these last days (months? years?) of believing.
That is why I was primed and ready when Kate sat down with me on the couch a few days ago with a serious look on her face, and questions at the ready.
“Mom, I need to talk to you. Do Jewish people celebrate Easter and Christmas?”
“No, they have other holidays,” I started, ready to make this into a mini lesson on world religions.
“I know, I know, Passover, Hannukah,” she said. “What I need to know is, well, Haley (name changed to protect the not-so-innocent) just told me there is no Easter Bunny and no Santa Claus. But Haley is Jewish, right?”
I feel the knot in my stomach. Will this end in tears, like our last conversation, where I had dashed her beliefs and squashed her fairy wonder?
“Yes,” I answered, carefully answering only what I was asked, “Haley is Jewish.”
“Well, good. Because how would she know the truth about the Easter Bunny and Santa? She’s never had them visit. She doesn’t know, but I know, they are real. Santa and the Easter Bunny are real. They’re real, aren’t they, mom?”
The air hung between us for a split second, the wonder, the joy, the desire to believe practically visible as colors swirling around her like a thought bubble.
I was not about to kill those two beautiful creatures, as I had the tooth fairy, so I said the thing I knew she wanted, and needed, to hear.
“Yes,” I said, without any doubt in my mind, “they are.”
From: Out to Play
March 30, 2012 at 11:03AM
Judge me by my size, do you?
Judging others. We all know we’re not supposed to do it. I try, with varying degrees of success, not to judge other people; but have you ever gone a week without passing a judgement? It’s tricky! So, imagine my delight when twice in the past year I have been asked to judge other people, on purpose, and in public! Woo-hoo, I thought – this is going to be FUN!
My first foray into the world of judging was delicious, literally. I was at a church-sponsored blueberry festival in Blue Hill, ME. This setting was as quaint as you are picturing. Kids frolicking in a bounce house, blueberry crafts, blueberry smoothies, blueberry muffins, music, sunshine…and of course, a contest for “Best Blueberry Pie.” But there was a big problem. The committee was short a person to judge the pies. They had already asked several people, all of whom had politely declined. This is a very small town. People are serious about their alliances, and about their blueberry pie. No one wanted to get caught up in that kind of trouble. However, being “from away,” I was targeted and eagerly agreed to participate.
I sat down with my co-judge and winked conspiratorially. This was just for fun, right? How hard could it be? We eat some pie, and pick the one we like the best. Not quite. My co-judge leaned in and said, “this is how I do it,” and he pulled out a spreadsheet of sorts. It was a small scrap of paper with a numeric rubric, and I got a quick lesson in how to dissect and judge the proper pie: Crust – dense or flaky? Filling – runny or firm? Taste – nutmeg or citrus? I started to shift in my seat. Oh, we’re taking this seriously? You betcha. A small crowd formed as we took careful, small bites of several pieces of pie. We ate, we rated, we revised, we re-tasted. Since each one was delicious, how could I ever choose? But slowly, with the rubric to guide us, a winner rose to the top. I took several more bites, (you know, just to be fair. I wanted to be completely sure of my vote, after all).
I came away unscathed from that experience, and was even thanked for taking my time and judging so thoroughly. To that, I flashed a blue smile and piped, “anytime!”
The winner of that pie contest walked away with bragging rights and a small ribbon, I recall. But what about when there is money involved? My second experience with being a judge is happening right now. In the small(ish) town of Windsor, CT, there is a long-standing tradition called the Shad Derby. What started as a fishing derby has grown into a months-long celebration, culminating in a parade and festival, and a coronation ball, where the “Shad Derby Queen” is named. (I’m not making this up).
Girls age 18-21 can compete for the coveted title, and accompanying scholarship money. When a good friend asked if I would participate as a judge, I willingly agreed. I knew there wouldn’t be pie, but I’m always up for something new. Why not? I thought.
The first event was a very nice gala, with a cocktail hour followed by a program where each young woman competing gave a one minute introductory speech. The other three judges and myself sat at a panel-style table facing them. “Like American Idol?” asked my daughter the next morning. Yes, like that, but without the singing. I was in awe of the poise of these young women as they took turns at the microphone, and realized with dread that judging people is nothing like judging pie. This was going to be really hard.
Things only got worse for me during the “interview night” where the young women again faced the panel of four judges, one at a time, to answer questions. The more I got to know each person, the harder it was for me to judge them. They are all darling, all active in their community, all stars in their respective school sports and activities. All have good hearts and big, bright smiles. I’m sure to some of them, the accompanying scholarship money would make a big impact on their plans for college. Judge them? How??
Luckily, as with the blueberry pie, there is a scoring rubric. As judges, at each event, we’ve entered numbers relating to various aspects of the candidate’s performances as diligently as we could. I’m told that somehow, when all the scores are tallied, it will all work out. The right person will be named Shad Derby Queen, and her court of Princess Royale, First Princess, and Second Princess will be rightly named in turn. I do not know who will “rise to the top”, but two things I do know for sure:
1) She will be deserving, because in my mind, I think all of these bright young women are.
2) I am so glad my 18-year-old self isn’t competing against them!
What is amazing to me is how hard it has been to be an official judge, when it is equally difficult for me to not judge people in my everyday life. This experience has taught me a valuable lesson: even when you look down under the bottom crust, most pies, and people, are good and deserving of love.