Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Summer Vacation

I know it's not my turn to blog, but it's a stormy Saturday afternoon - a rare one in Southern California - and I'm in the mood to write.  Thanks for letting me!  This summer's highlight for me was a trip to Switzerland, Germany and France with my husband.  We reconnected with my cousins, "The Swiss Family Rabils," and saw beautiful castles, cathedrals, cobblestone streets, and flowers in every color and size.  I've included way too many photos from our trip, but it was so hard to choose!  I also attended the L.A. SCBWI conference and had a chance to meet my editor at Chronicle, Melissa Manlove.  She's lovely inside and out.  My agent was there and she hosted a party for her clients.  It was great to sit down for a couple of hours with fellow writers.  The conference was over the top wonderful, as expected!   I got some writing done in the middle of all this and am teaching an on-line writing course.  In a couple of weeks it will be back to Cal State to teach Children's Literature and Expository Writing, as well as some Senior Seminar courses.  
Our hotel in Lucerne.

My cousin's daughter, Maggie.

A Saturday market.

My cousin's son, John, going up.

My cousin's son, Marcus, digging in.

On the Rhine.

The view from Heidelberg Castle.

A fiddler in Strasbourg.

A castle on the Rhine.

What I did this summer...

This has been a busy, but memorable, summer with not enough writing accomplished, but all sorts of writing-related adventure.  Late in the spring I was busy researching steamboats (which play an important role in my current work-in-progress), and my husband and I traveled to Irvington, on the northern neck of Virginia along the Rappahannock River, to visit the Steamboat Era Museum.

We stayed at the lovely Hope and Glory Inn,
where the innkeeper offered to give us a wine tasting at his nearby vineyard known as the Dog & Oyster.  Well, one thing led to another and before we realized what was happening, we found the perfect little "getaway" home in Vineyard Grove.

 The thing that sold us was the kayak dock on Carter's Creek.
 We weren't even looking, but now we are the proud owners of Tent House #6 (the story behind why it's called a tent house will have to wait for another post, but I'll give you the hint that it does involve those steamboats I was researching).

We settled on June 24th and barely had time to spend a few days there before I headed off to Ireland to teach at Spalding University's MFA residency abroad.  The first week was spent in Dublin on the campus of Trinity College, also home to the Book of Kells, and the second week in the village of Oranmore on the outskirts of Galway.  In addition to leading a workshop with six amazing writers

I gave 2 lectures, a reading, heard a lecture on Jonathan Swift given by the president of Ireland, attended a play at The Abby Theater, and took side trips to the Village of Trim (where Braveheart was filmed),

the ruins of the 9th century monastery Clonmacnoise,

and the smallest of the Aran Isles, Inishmore.

 This week I start receiving the first round of packets from my 6 MFA students!

As if this wasn't enough adventure, we also spent a week in a wonderful rambling house known as Blueberry Lodge in Sorrento, Maine with both our children and their families (6 adults and 6 children)--chaotic but wonderful.

Now I am trying to get my life back to a more normal writing routine with time spent in both our homes, Misty Hill Lodge and the river house, as we have decided to call it.  By the way, fellow spuds, it would make a great place for a writing retreat!


Magic Realism or Surrealism?

The highlight of my summer was the Whidbey Island MFA residency where I teach. The January residency is fun, but nothing like the August residency in which we have a Bear Plunge (Yes, in that freezing water!)

and graduation.

This year we tried something different: Afternoon classes in different topics taught by the faculty. I participated in  the magic-realistic panel. How else can I describe it?

Moderator Kathleen Alcalá began the session opening an umbrella that she held with a black-gloved hand. That way, she read a passage from Gabriel García Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Next came Bruce Holland Rogers who spoke about his magic realistic experiences as a young man, and then snoozed on the floor.

I followed his interesting talk with a power point comparing Frida Kahlo's art to Salvador Dalí's. Magic realists or surrealists? Frida said: “They thought I was a surrealist, but I wasn’t. I’ve never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”  In contrast, Salvador Dalí said: "I am surrealism."

Nothing better than to follow a quote from Dalí with a talk about the poet who loved him so much, Federico García Lorca. Our Whidbey poet, Carolyne Wright is an expert in Lorca. And nothing better than ending the session wih her reciting: 

Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.  



Bogs, Beans, Books, and Bovines

 Like Christy and Stephanie, I had a full summer packed with lots of book-related events.

 In June, while I was in Bemidji, Minnesota for their annual Book Festival, I visited Joe Rossi who was the photographer for my book Minnesota's Hidden Alphabet. He took me out for a "Bog Walk" on his property where I saw incredible plants, including these gorgeous lady slippers.

Super Librarian Kim Faurot and her husband Brad hosted their annual Butterfly Birthday Party, which included besides an incredible display of food, a children's book-themed treasure hunt, butterfly craft projects, and a marionette show.

 I read stories and drew pictures for kids in their PJs on trolleys in Minneapolis and Excelsior.

 Excelsior Bay Books ran a citywide "Find the Mean Green Beans" contest, similar to the "Where's Waldo" events run in other cities, but they used my book "How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans" as their theme.

Red Balloon Bookshop hosted the publication party for "Arlo's ARTrageous Adventure!" the first picture book that I both wrote and illustrated. That's me with bookshop owner Holly Weinkauf. I owe Spud Christy Hale many thanks for inspiring me to come up with fun publication party ideas. 

My summer ended with two days spent at the Minnesota State Fair. One day was at Debra Frasier's "Alphabet Forest," a magical place celebrating books and literacy, where I helped kids make Wanted Posters for the food of their choice. The other day was spent with friend and illustrtor Mike Wohnoutka, where our soon-to-be-released picture book MOO! was featured as the Story Walk. Fair goers could read each page of the book posted on large signs, similar to the old Burma Shave road signs. That's Mike and me in the Moo Building (yes, that's the actual name of the building!) with an accommodating cow named "Buckle Up" (and yes, that's her actual name; when you see the book, you'll realize how apt that is!).

Whew! What a grand summer!


A Pivotal Summer

The spring ended with news of a Horn Book Honor award for Dreaming Up, my daughter turning eighteen and graduating from high school—so much to celebrate!

In June I traveled to Chicago for ALA. I signed books for both Readers to Eaters and Lee & Low and got a little face time with Spud John and Spud Stephanie as well as many colleagues from my in-house publishing days. I design books for NorthSouth and got the opportunity to meet the publisher and other staff who were attending ALA from Switzerland. What did they want to do in Chicago? Listen to jazz! It was fun go out to the Green Mill.

Another highlight of the summer was going to Outside Lands, an annual three-day music festival in Golden Gate Park. My husband and I found tickets for Friday-only so we could see Paul McCartney. There were thousands of people in attendance. Look how close I am to my favorite Beatle! He sang many hit Beatle tunes and EVERYONE sang along. Each song transported me to a different moment in my history.

I had a hard time focusing on my creative work this summer, or perhaps I should say my focus was almost completely on my best work ever—my daughter! I sewed, shopped, organized, and packed, while privately shedding many tears. I am such an anticipator, the upside of which is that when we finally said goodbye in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon, a good amount of grieving was behind me. I am ready to fill my newly emptied nest with creative projects.


A Summer for the Books...

This summer was so busy for me, I don't know where to start. So I'll start with Chicago and ALA. This was only the second time a publisher has taken me to ALA ( the first was also in Chicago, but back in 1999) and I had such a fabulous time. I got to attend the YA Coffee Klatch where I speed dated with librarians, and then I headed over to where Christy Hale was signing books and also got to see John Coy. Here's the photographic proof of three potatoes in one spot at the same time:
Then I had to head over to the Macmillan Kids booth where I signed galleys of The Fallout for over an hour. ( The line was sooo long, which made me very happy.)
 Then I headed to Anderson's in Naperville where I was on a panel with Sara Zarr, Matthew Quick, and Marcus Sedgwick, among others, before heading to a dinner with a lot of fabulous librarians and other Macmillan authors like Francesca Lia Block, who is one of my YA heroes. A couple weeks later, I headed to Irving , Texas for a couple of library events. Texas librarians are the best and even had some awesome book refreshments:
Those were the fun things of the summer, because we also moved from Oregon to Minnesota. We had to take both cars, which meant I had to drive the entire way, although my husband was kind and took our yowling cat in his vehicle. I'm looking forward to hearing about all the others Spuds' summers...