Archive for the ‘Utah’ Tag
Yesterday we drove away from the snow and cold to spend our Spring Break in sunny southern Utah. We found a cozy little condo in Moab and plan to spend the week out-of-doors as much as possible. We have a geologist with us, who loves to read about the different types of sandstone and how they are all affected differently by erosion. He is constantly pointing out the striations in the rock formations. We have a naturalist, too. She is on the lookout for lizards and chipmunks, and loves rubbing her fingers in soft juniper needles and smelling the sweet and pungent scent they leave. If none of the native animal species present themselves, she is just as happy greeting every dog we encounter at lookout points and parking lots. We also have an explorer. He loves the slickrock, and will run, jump, or ride off any ledge he encounters on the trail. He likes to walk up to the very edge of cliffs and drop-offs, “to see the bottom” of the stony mesas and canyons. He is on the verge of giving me a heart attack. And last, we have our own little wild thing. He answers to the very call of nature, as unpredictable as the weather. One minute he is as destructive as a tornado (he thought the cairns on the side of the trail were put there for him to knock over), the next he is sleeping in his booster seat, as immovable as a glacier.
It is going to be a fun week!
I found this in my garage on Saturday:
Two weeks after finding one of these:
Don’t ask me why in the midst of all this I brought home one of these:
And am planning on buying one of these for Christmas (ho-ho-ho):
I don’t know what I’m doing to myself. My skin is constantly crawling these days. I’m just going to have to give in and get my kids a dog. Dogs might be more work, but at least they are cute. That crab creeps me out, and guess who is feeding it, bathing it, and spritzing it’s cage every day? (Yes, hermit crabs need baths.)
As for the venomous creatures setting up house in my garage, this is my only consolation: We haven’t had to deal with any more of these since we left Massachusetts:
and I found them in MUCH scarier places than my garage!
Saturday I drove 40 minutes south for the first annual Teen Book Fest at the Provo City Library. When I arrived, the first thing I encountered was the table where high school students could register for extra credit. Before I realized what the table was for, I got in the back of the line. When I discovered it was not the line for me, I was very happy I didn’t need extra credit, and also a little sad. I loved those students. They clustered around doorways in groups of three or more, tried not to look too interested, and asked the authors questions like, “What is your favorite kind of cereal?” They were the ‘teen’ in the Teen Book Fest.
And what was I? Not the teen. Not the book. Certainly not fest, darn-it. If I hadn’t hired a babysitter to come and watch my kids for me, I might have stayed home. It’s hard to go time after time to these author events and wonder, ‘Will I ever get my revisions done? If I do, who will want to buy my book?’ But I convinced myself that I could learn something by attending, so I put on my new red pea-coat and headed out the door.
I’m so glad I did. It was wonderful to see Ann Cannon, author of The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love, and hear her read from her book. She talked about the inspiration behind Scout, the book’s female protagonist, who happens to be a closet romance-reader. For fun Cannon brought along The Romance Writers’ Phrase Book and she entertained us all by sharing some choice excerpts. I loved what Cannon said about writing characters who are real, and how a part of the author goes into what she/he writes.
I also got so much – courage, inspiration, illumination – from the panel I attended with contemporary YA fiction writers Sara Zarr (Once Was Lost), Ann Dee Ellis (Everything is Fine) and Carol Lynch Williams (The Chosen One). They talked about why they write for teens, why they write realistic stories that come with the hard-edge of truth, and the challenges they face as writers. I loved what they said about the writers who influence them, and about the importance of hope in their writing.
While I was at the Book Fest, I had the chance to speak to another local author, Ally Condie. Her new book, Matched, will be released soon. It has already received great reviews and a lot of media attention. I can’t wait to read it. I’ve heard Condie speak at other author events and admire how honest, funny, and kind she is. I loved what she said recently on the blog, throwing up words. When I read what she wrote about writing as a hobby I thought, “That is it, exactly.” So I’m going to let her words be my portrait for today – my portrait of a hobby:
Earlier this summer we took a family trip to Bear Lake. One evening, sitting on the deck of our cabin, a blur of beating wings interrupted our view of the blue water. I heard it before I saw it – the buzz that tore a hole in the air, slicing it open as neatly and swiftly as a seam ripper. The loud chirrup. And then the tiny flash of beak and feathers. There was a pause of conversation, of thoughts and of words, as we briefly pondered the world of the hummingbird.
HummingbirdsThe female, and two chicks,each no bigger than my thumb,scattered,shimmeringin their pale-green dresses;then they rose, tiny fireworks,into the leavesand hovered;then they sat down,each one with dainty, charcoal feet -each one on a slender branch -and looked at me.I had meant no harm,I had simplyclimbed the treefor something to doon a summer day,not knowing they were there,ready to burst the ledgesof their mossy nestand to fly, for the first time,in their sea-green helmets,with brisk, metallic tails -each tulled wing,with every dollop of flight,drawing a perfect wheelacross the air.Then, with a series of jerks,they paused in front of meand, dark-eyed, stared -as though I were a flower -and then,like three tosses of silvery water,they were gone.Alone,in the crown of the tree,I went to China,I went to Prague;I died, and was born in the spring;I found you, and loved you, again.Later the darkness felland the solid moonlike a white pond rose.But I wasn’t in any hurry.Likely I visted allthe shimmering, heart-stabbingquestions without answersbefore I climbed down.
This week I’m attending the Salt Lake based conference, “Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers.” Each day of the conference provides opportunities to meet and learn from gifted and successful writers of books for teenagers and children. It can be inspiring and invigorating. It can also be somewhat devastating. Because these conferences always bring editors and agents, too. And as much as the conference organizers want to convince us to “not put only publication on your agenda,” and “learn from every lecture you attend,” why else would any of us be there if we weren’t hoping for a shot at a book deal? When I arrived to register this afternoon and looked at the room full of desperate hopefuls, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed and just a little pathetic. It is just one more example of how exposed you make yourself as a writer. I’ve been attending writing conferences like this for more than nine years now, and I truly appreciate learning from presenters and spending time with my writing friends, but I’ve also had to learn to steel myself against my own insecurities. Last summer while attending the same conference, I took the light-hearted approach and made up my own lyrics to the jazz standard, “I Could Write a Book.”
If they asked me, I could write a book.
Historical or fantasy, contemporary . . . take a look.
I could add a vampire, if that’s what it takes. Oh please, just give me my break.
So I’m sending you my query right away.
So that you can publish it today.
And if you’re still looking for the perfect hook, put my picture on the cover of the book.
All very tongue and cheek. But I ended up singing it at a plenary session for all the conference participants. And believe me, singing acapella into a microphone in a room full of hundreds of people was no big deal compared to sitting across from an editor and hearing what she had to say about my book.
On Friday, when I emerged from my sewing room with a large burn on the top of my hand, my husband asked, “Isn’t there a class you can take on how to safely use an iron?” He wasn’t being condescending. He was concerned. And also a little irritated. It’s not my first mishap with an iron.
The next day we took the kids to pre-ride the bike course in Draper where my husband and three oldest kids raced today. When I wrecked on my mountain bike and lost four inches of skin from my left forearm, my husband said, “I’m sorry you got hurt, but it was really cool to see you take one for the team like that.”
1) It’s WAY cooler to injure yourself biking than sewing. Now that I’ve wrecked, I might even start ordering those cute clothes I’m always eyeing in the Title 9 catalog. I always look at the models and think I’m not athletic enough, but wrecking makes me legitimate. Like getting a rejection letter from a book editor.
2) Never brake at an obstacle in the path. Slow down when approaching said obstacle, but upon reaching it, let your momentum carry you over/down/through.
3) It’s better to laugh than to cry. When I hit the ground I felt my helmeted-head bounce off the dirt, which made me queasy, plus it hurt to move. I decided to indulge in a little cry. But before I could get started, my husband and our little crew were there, peering over me to see if Mommy was okay. They were so worried, and I felt so stupid, that laughing was definitely the best option.
4) I’ve been surpassed. I was supposed to pre-ride the 12 and under course with my oldest, Hunter. He is nine. I used to ride faster than him. Now he is a better biker than me (he sailed right through the obstacle – which, by the way, was a very steep hill with a shallow gulley at the bottom). That is okay because I still have three kids who are younger than him. I have nine more years to ride the 12 and under course. After that, I’m in trouble.
5) If you can help it, it’s better not to take one. But if you must, do it for the team.
This is a guest post by my son, Hunter, who is 8:
I love the rain. I love the feel of it, the sound of it, the smell of it. I love the way it changes the whole world in an instant, giving and giving and giving. When we lived in Massachusetts it would rain for days at a time, until the green woods around our home just shone with it. Here in Utah we don’t see it as much, and often it is just a whisper of rain, passing by in an instant. But then there are the times when the dry air thickens, the clouds roll in, and the flat, dusty dirt bounces off the ground from the force of it pouring down.
One afternoon this past summer I decided to teach my kids about the rain. I brought them out to our backyard with their journals and a chart on “The hydrologic cycle.” It couldn’t just be called the water cycle because it came from the U.S. Geological Survey website. Very official.
After we’d figured out the difference between transpiration and evaporation we read poems about the rain. Poems that shared the experience of the rain through one of the five sense. One of my favorites was “April Rain Song” by Langston Hughes, anthologized in Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters’ Here’s a Little Poem (my favorite-ever book of poetry for children, thanks to Polly Dunbar’s wonderful illustrations). Here it is:
Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night –
And I love the rain.
I also loved this line from “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Sara Teasdale:
There will come soft rains and the smell of ground,
And swallows calling with their shimmering sound.
I’m not sure if my children were as enthralled as I was. The fact is, they were on to me. Before we’d finished reading the four poems I had selected, my oldest, Hunter, interrupted me to ask, “Mom, are we going to have to write poems at the end of this?”
You betcha, Hunter. Here is what he wrote:
Rain, rain, I love the rain.
In a pace like a race, I love the rain.
Instead of writing a poem, Hattie made a list of the things she likes to do in the rain: setting cups out to catch the water, jumping in puddles, and walking with her umbrella.
My four year old, Sawyer? He just drew pictures of lightening bolts. When I prodded him to give me a reason why he likes the rain, this is what I got: “The rain waters the plants so I don’t have to.”
But here is the magical part of all of this. When we began our little lesson, the sky was sunny and blue and dry – dry as the scrub oak that grows wild around us. Then, as soon as we finished writing about the rain and sharing what we’d written with each other, dark clouds rolled across the sky, speeding toward us from the mountain tops on a rushing gust of wind. We heard the rumbling of the thunder before we felt the first fat drops. They came down slowly at first, making soggy punctuation marks on our pages. We all just sat there in the grass, watching the sky change, listening to the thunder. Hattie, her face turned up to catch the raindrops, smiled and said, “The whole world must have heard us!”