Posted on April 17, 2015
April 12-18 is National Library Week this year. It seems a good time to write my long-overdue love letter to librarians.
First, thank you for helping my mother and father become readers. Second, thank you for helping me discover the power of words. My parents and older sisters read to me from the time I was a baby, and many of our books were library books. I recall my first local library at Fort Richardson (now JBER), Alaska. The children’s books section was to the right of the main door, and I loved scanning the shelves and choosing books to take home. The librarian often recommended books once she saw what my tastes were. And when I grew old enough, the entire library was at my reach. When I was done with my browsing and waiting for my family members to choose their books, I would often go see the huge Earth and constellations globes, just another reminder that there was a whole universe to explore out there. Wow.
At school, my mother volunteered at the library so I got to know the librarians there more than most kids, some long enough to remember their names. Molly Bynum at Ursa Minor Elementary and Kelly Christenson, Leah Hoffman, Carol Pryor, and Virginia Rehder at Bartlett-Begich Junior-Senior High School gave me tons of books and a safe place to be when I needed it. In high school, the library was my hangout before school. A bunch of us nerdy girls talked and read at our regular table every day. And Leah Hoffman became my mentor in stage makeup class and beyond. Her kind words and easy laugh are still a comfort to me.
When I became an English teacher, I often found the librarian to be a kindred spirit. They all helped me and my students with many book recommendations and research presentations. Some of my teaching friends later became librarians, and one, Jim Curran, is now the teen librarian at my local library. I enjoy watching him interact with the teens and have had the opportunity to work with him on a couple projects. And another local librarian, Charlotte Pendleton, has been invaluable arranging author events.
For every librarian I have named, there are a handful I didn’t. And for every librarian I’ve known, there are thousands I don’t know. All of you help young people and old, rich and poor, find solace and adventure and themselves in books. You provide other services too, enriching our lives in so many ways. Thanks for all you’ve done and will do. I love you. Happy National Library Week.
Posted on April 10, 2015
Happy National Poetry Month!
I think most of us are exposed to poetry as soon as we’re exposed to words. Nursery rhymes are poems. A. A. Milne’s Pooh books and Dr. Seuss books have them too. As Shakespeare noticed, the English language is often spoken in iambic pentameter. No wonder so many of us love poetry.
I enjoyed all of the above at a young age. When I was growing up, one of my favorite read-alouds was a book of poetry for children. When I got a little older, I discovered Emily Dickinson. I wrote my own (pretty awful) poetry as a teen and young adult. Later, I found Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou expressed my thoughts better than I could. And I still enjoy reading poetry today.
Many of the keynote speakers of the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference are poets. Even though I am a novelist, I always learn new things about writing, and sometimes about life, from them. My favorites (so far) are Billy Collins and Rita Dove. We are enriched by poetry and poets. I am glad we give them their due for one month a year.
Here are some links to help you celebrate National Poetry Month:
The National Poetry Month website: http://www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/home
The Emily Dickinson Museum website: https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org
“Billy Collins: Everyday moments, caught in time” TED talk including animated poems: http://www.ted.com/talks/billy_collins_everyday_moments_caught_in_time?language=en
“White House Poetry Evening with Rita Dove, intro by Barack Obama” short excerpt of reading: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIT82Oy9U1Y
Posted on April 3, 2015
I had so much fun with this topic I wrote two posts! Here’s the second half:
You know you’re an Alaskan when…
you know at least one Alaskan politician and have shaken hands with a few more.
you keep track of the price of oil.
you’ve checked on a stranger stopped on the side of the road, or helped someone after a fire.
you have shared earthquake or volcano stories.
you have shared beer or food with a complete stranger.
you know which roadhouses have good pie.
you have used first aid outdoors. (Extra points if it was with improvised tools.)
you are comfortable socializing with people from varied backgrounds or professions.
you don’t judge people by their clothing.
you have cursed the cold, darkness, break up, or mosquitos.
you wouldn’t trade your home state for any place Outside.
Posted on March 27, 2015
You know you’re an Alaskan when…
your friend asks if you’re going Outside for vacation and you know he means out of state.
you follow dog mushers and Nordic (cross-country) skiers as much as football or baseball players.
you have a favorite mosquito repellent.
your freezer has moose, caribou, halibut or salmon from last season.
you own hipboots, rain gear, snow boots, a down, thinsulate, or fur parka, ice grippers or cleats, and at least one item made of fleece. (Extra points if you have a kuspuk or a real fur hat.)
you’ve seen XtraTuff boots at a formal event. (Extra points if you were wearing them.)
you own something made of qiviut (musk ox yarn) or you want one.
you’ve done at least a few of the following: driven just to see the view, ridden in a dog sled, panned for gold, seen the Northern Lights, paddled a kayak, flown over a glacier, gotten a vehicle stuck in snow or mud.
you know someone who had their vehicle totaled from a collision with a moose. (Extra points if it was your vehicle.)
you have a secret fishing hole or berrypicking spot.
To be continued next week!
Do you have one you can add to this list? Please comment below!
Posted on March 20, 2015
I thank Victoria Pitts-Caine for inviting me to join the Sisterhood of The World Bloggers. This should be fun!
First, before I get started, here are the rules…
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you
2. Put the award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the 10 questions they’ve sent you.
4. Make up 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.
- What’s your happiest holiday memory?
Hearing sleigh bells outside my window on Christmas Eve. I was six years old.
2. Who was your favorite grade school teacher?
Mrs. Marioni—I had a lot of great grade school teachers, but she was so kind and understanding when I had a rough year in 6th grade.
3. If life had taken you down a different path, what would you be doing now?
I’d probably be a librarian.
4. What place in the world would you like to visit?
I’ve been to many amazing places, but one still on my list is Ireland.
5. What’s your favorite dessert?
Chocolate and peanut butter anything!
6. If you were told you only had one day to live, how would you spend it?
With my family, talking around the dining table.
7. Which do you like to do best: a movie rental and a bowl of popcorn, a good book and a cup of hot chocolate, or a day at the beach ending with watching the sunset?
Good book and a cup of hot chocolate!
8. What’s your favorite electronic gadget?
My laptop—great for writing, web surfing, and communicating via email and social media!
9. How will you (or how did you) spend New Year’s Eve?
With my husband, at a stupendous meal at Saks Café, watching fireworks, then a night at Copper Whale Inn.
10. Pets – cats, dogs, fish? What do you have?
Nothing right now—I’m in between cats.
In turn, I nominate: Jewell Tweedt, Gail Pallotta, Linda Shew Wolf, Rachel James, Gisele LeBlanc, Lea Nolan, Stina Lindenblatt, Brenda Haupt Maxfield, Dotti Enderle-Dax Varley, Stephanie J Pajonas.
Here are my ten questions for the nominees:
1. What place in the world would you like to visit?
2. Who was your favorite teacher?
3. Which do you like to do best: a movie rental and a bowl of popcorn, a good book and a cup of hot chocolate, or a day at the beach ending with watching the sunset?
4. If life had taken you down a different path, what would you be doing now?
5. What is one children’s book that you loved, or maybe still love?
6. If you were told you only had one day to live, how would you spend it?
7. What do you like best about this time of year?
8. What’s your favorite movie or TV show?
9. What is your favorite part of writing?
10. If you had to be stranded on a desert island with only three books, which books would you choose?
Thanks for participating, hope you have fun with it!
Posted on March 13, 2015
I have always enjoyed elements of Irish culture. My daughter fell in love with Riverdance at age 4 and was an Irish dancer for about ten years. With that exposure, I also learned a little about Irish language, music and mythology. When I wrote Quicksilver to Gold (http://www.prismbookgroup.com/QuicksilvertoGold.html), I had fun making Jeannie an Irish-American and throwing in a few bits—for example, she calls her father Da. So it’s with pleasure that I wish you a happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m posting one traditional and one more modern tidbit to celebrate with you:
Here’s my favorite Irish blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
And here’s Innova Irish Dance Company performing at Britain’s Got Talent, performing a mostly-traditional dance to techno music:
If you enjoy Facebook parties, I invite you to Prism Book Group’s Lucky Readers Event on Tuesday, March 17th. Prism authors will celebrate the season by offering book sales, chatting about books and reading, and giving away prizes from 1:00 pm to 10:00 pm EST. I’ll be there to host the last hour and give away one copy each of Quicksilver to Gold and my newest book Golden Days. https://www.facebook.com/events/1559820214287119/
However you celebrate, or even if you don’t, I wish you the best of good luck.
Posted on March 6, 2015
I grew up on Fort Richardson, near Anchorage, Alaska. In those days, the Fur Rendezvous festival (Fur Rondy) was a really big deal. Everyone went downtown to see the carnival, blanket toss, and the fur auction. And the World Championship Sled Dog Races were the highlight. It’s the sprint race of the sport, totaling seventy-five miles over three days. I recall seeing the start on 4th Avenue, and sometimes watching the dog teams go by on Cordova Street or the trail by Tudor Road. At that time, the races coincided with President’s Day, and for years, I thought we got the day off to watch the sled dog race, not understanding the day off school was for a national holiday.
We all followed the mushers like today’s kids follow their football or basketball stars. Two dog mushers were always at or near the top of the leader board: Dr. Roland Lombard and George Attla. Between 1958 and 1982, Attla won ten times, and Lombard eight. No trash talking here—they were gentlemen who had a friendly rivalry and showed deep respect for each other. They were both great role models, but I’m going to focus on Attla today.
George Attla, the Huslia Hustler, showed great strength and resilience in his life. He was from Huslia, a small Alaskan village, and contracted tuberculosis at a young age. He spent many years in Sitka for treatment, and left with a stiff leg, but he refused to let it slow him down. He became active in dog mushing in the 1950s, and made his mark in many races including the Anchorage ones. He also gave back to others. He wrote a book, Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs. He mentored young racers, created the Frank Attla Youth & Sled Dog Care-Mushing Program, and was coaching his student Joe Bifelt for this year’s World Championship race when he succumbed to cancer. Attla died on February 15 of this year.
Attla saw some recognition during his lifetime. Governor Cowper proclaimed April 29, 1988, as “George Attla Day.” The movie Spirit of the Wind was about his life ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHWWJCvYO3o ) and Attla was inducted in the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. But it’s too bad he didn’t get to see the dedication of the George Attla Mushing District Arch across 4th Avenue, or watch Joe Bifelt participate in the race he led for so long. The races were cancelled this year due to lack of snow.
I and many other Alaskans will miss George Attla. He was an amazing person. Thank you and God speed, Mr. Attla. May you win more races in the afterlife.
Here are two articles that pay tribute to him:
Photo from Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, ADN file photo
Posted on February 27, 2015
I am a logical-sequential kind of person. I tend to look at a situation and weigh the pros and cons, and take my time before I make a decision. But I recently took a leap of faith and did something based on a gut feeling. It’s a little scary, but I’m okay with it.
I have been making a list of writing conferences to attend this year, partly to plan my year and partly to apply for an artist grant. I spent hours looking at websites I bookmarked, researching workshops, venues and costs. I tweeted an agent I admire, Nicole Resciniti, to ask which conferences she planned to attend, to see if any were on my list.
When she replied, she listed two conferences. I hadn’t heard of either of them, so I Googled them to check them out. The WisRWA conference was intriguing, and something inside me told me I should go. So I signed up. Right then. No list or pros and cons, no setting it aside to think it over. I just did it.
I can only think of two other times I did something so impulsive. One was saying yes to my husband’s proposal. The other was entering a Savvy Authors blurb contest, which led to a contract with Prism Book Group. Those cases certainly turned out well. I can’t predict where this decision will lead. Maybe it won’t be as life-changing this time. But I’ve learned to trust my gut and take a leap of faith now and then. I’m curious, and a little excited, to see what will happen next.
(illustration courtesy WisRWA)
Posted on February 20, 2015
I recently entered a writing contest. To prepare, I spent hours with critique groups to see how others read the manuscript. I polished my synopsis and chapters, and met again with my groups. I wrote madly to make the deadline and sent off the entry. By the time I put it in the mail, my carpal tunnels were acting up, I was sick of my story, and I wasn’t sure if it was any good or not. Time to step away from the keyboard.
Periodically, writers reach the point where it seems everything they write is crap (pardon the expression). It’s usually the case when we spend too much time on a manuscript—after a while, we can’t see the forest for the trees and we can’t look at it with fresh eyes, as a reader might. And other times, it’s a case of working harder not smarter; tweaking little things without the big picture in mind can be counterproductive. In my current situation, I think it’s a little of both.
My solution was to step away from the keyboard for a while. (Okay, not completely. I still check emails, etc. but I’m not working on creative writing.) I read more, worked on my volunteer commitments, got in some extra time with my husband. Then yesterday, I started thinking about the story again by meeting with a critique partner and showing her the entry that I thought was crap. (Her assessment: some of it did need more work, but it wasn’t all crap. Thank goodness!) Now I have some ideas of what needs to be fixed/revised, and I’ll let that percolate in my brain a little more. Then I’ll go back to the keyboard, probably next week.
This is a hard part of the process for me. I’m a linear thinking, get-things-done kind of person. So purposely NOT working on the writing feels wrong. But I have learned over the years that it is better to step away from the keyboard now and then. It’s part of being a writer.
Have you ever found yourself in this situation? What was your solution?
Posted on February 13, 2015
Happy Valentine’s Day!
What a great time to celebrate love, and enjoy reading romance novels!
To honor the season, here’s my top 5 reasons I write romance:
5: The giddy feeling of young love
4: The thrill of his touch
3: The first kiss
2: The proposal
1: The happy ever after!
I have a couple treats for you:
For those of you on Facebook, you might enjoy Prism Book Group’s Sweetheart of a Deal Event, featuring 99 cent books, fun author posts, and prizes. It’s Friday, Feb. 13th from noon to 10 pm EST.
Also, KTUU’s Tracy Sinclare included me in a recent Cover2Cover story about Alaska romance novels:
Thanks so much to my readers and fans for your support. May you have a lovely Valentine’s Day!