Bears keep me humble. They help me to keep the world in perspective and to understand where I fit on the spectrum of life. We need to preserve the wilderness and its monarchs for ourselves, and for the dreams of our children. We should fight for these things as if our life depended upon it, because it does.
A couple of weeks ago we had a chance to visit our boys in Seattle. We enjoyed a picnic lunch on the rooftop deck of Kevin's condo; this bi-plane was just one of many landing on Lake Union that day!
L-R: Kevin, Brian, & David
Later that afternoon we visited the Washington Park Arboretum, near the University of Washington. The nature walk was beautiful; a wide variety of trees, plants, and wildlife-right in the heart of a big city!
(Can you tell which one is the ham?)
At the end of the nature walk, you end up at Elliott Bay. This tugboat is a familiar sight in Seattle; along with various other watercraft.
The day included other adventures: purchasing art supplies for Michael, attending an art show, & even dealing with Brian's car problems! All in all it was an action-packed, fun filled day.
My passion for the written word, part of my blog sub-title, really comes from the realization that words can be magical. Much like a florist arranging blossoms to create a beautiful bouquet, a chef selecting ingredients to make a delectable dessert, or an artist choosing his colors to paint a moving masterpiece - a writer can create an unforgettable story by her selection of extraordinary words. This generally isn't something that comes easily; it takes years of practice - as I'm finding out! Still, for me, the strong desire to find that special combination of syllables, that not only describe but delight, is an obsession. The crazy thing is that sometimes the most simple phrase will find that magic: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." is one of those phrases that hit the sweet spot when Charles Dickens wrote ATale of Two Cities. That phrase is so elementary, yet so profound, it has marvelously stood the test of time on its own; even people who have never read the book have heard that phrase. Obviously, to be a published author takes more than tickling the mind of the reader; a great plot, proper pacing, character development, and a number of other elements are needed to create an inspired piece of literature - but it starts with words - magical words!
The average rainfall in the Olympic National Rain Forest is between 110 and 160 inches annually - the greatest in the United States. Unlike the equatorial rain forests, our summers can have long periods of no rain at all. If the weather does choose to be wet while I visit our cabin, reading a good book is my favorite thing to do!
Our fourth featured plant is the prickly Devil's Club. It is usually found in moist places like creek bottoms, swamps, and ditches. It grows in groups of stalks between 5-10 in number, developing from a spreading root system. Although this plant is known to grow between three and five feet tall - in the Olympic National Rain Forest it can be seen as tall as sixteen feet!
Flap Copy description: Glittering. That's how Katie Takeshima's sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people's eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, its Lynn who explains to her why people stop them on the street to stare. And its Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering - something kira-kira - in the future.
This middle grade fiction is set in the late 1950's in the racially-torn Deep South of America. The relationship of Katie to her older sister Lynn, and the small Japanese community as well, weaves a story of love and loss - as well as hope and survival. Kira-Kira deals with such raw subjects as poverty, racism, and death; but leaves you feeling quite inspired at the end of it all. Ms. Kadohata won the 2005 Newbery Medal Award for this book - her first middle grade novel.
Although my husband, Michael Lindstrom, and I both have blogs - we rarely mention one another on our respective sites. But...congratulations are in order! Michael had been invited to be a guest artist at the annual Art in the Heart art show, sponsored by Art on the Boulevard pictured here. He has shown his oil paintings at small public venues before, but this is his first gallery sponsored event. If you're a local, check out his art next month; the show is Aug. 5th and 6th.
For more information, and to view his paintings - check out his blog: http://michaellindstromartist.blogspot.com/
Earlier this week, the writers' critique group that meets at our home hosted authors Carolyn J. Rose and Mike Nettleton. This married couple is quite the "deadly duo" hence their web site: http://www.deadlyduomysteries.com/
They were invited to share their experiences in regards to publishing; they have published books traditionally, and independently as well.
After a great evening of good food and good information - Carolyn said something to me quite unexpected. She knows I have written a children's short story; and my husband, Michael, has illustrations for it. She encouraged me to submit my work to an agent - even though the word count is too high for a picture book these days. While I have been busily trying to finish my MG animal fantasy novel; I have completely set aside The Scandinavian Santa. These words of encouragement, coming from a published author, meant the world to me - thanks Carolyn! While I still plan on focusing on finishing The Tale of WillabyCreek, I will probably take Carolyn's advice as well. Isn't multi-tasking fun?
The temperature range of the Olympic Rain Forest is usually 40 degrees to 70 degrees year around, however it dips to freezing or colder in the winter months; in the summer, daytime temperatures can be a pleasant 80 or 85 degrees day after day. (My own experience has been that whether it's summer or winter, you better have your rain coat handy in the Rain Forest!)
Salal is our plant of focus this week. It can grow singly or in masses, and reaches heights of 3-4 feet, sometimes as high as 7 feet. In areas that are exposed to the sunlight (like here in the backyard at our cabin), they remain short and scrubby, covering the ground or stumps. In the spring, pink, urn-shaped blossoms appear; turning to a dark purple berry that has a pleasant flavor, but is rather dry.
Flap Copy description:
When a fortuneteller's tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her?
The fortuneteller's mysterious answer (An elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that Peter can hardly dare to believe it.
The author, Kate DiCamillo, is truly a storyteller extraordinaire. Rather than be constrained by the writing status quo - the author tenaciously spins her tale, The Magician's Elephant, in her own heart-felt style. Each character is developed with such detail and with such a unique voice - that upon completing the reading of this story, I had to remind myself that the magician had not really caused an elephant to appear! A true treasure for readers of all ages to enjoy.
(Ms. DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal in 2004 for her book: The Tale of Despereaux.)
The Newbery Medal Award is something that is mentioned frequently in my themed post - Bibliophile's Corner - on Mondays. Those writer types, who view my blog, are quite aware of the significance of the award. However, for my family and friends who may not be familiar with it, I feel a brief description of it might be helpful.
The John Newbery Medal is awarded each year to the author making the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children from the previous year. This award is given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA). It is named for John Newbery, an 18th century English publisher of juvenile books. Besides the Newbery Medal, additional citations are given to worthy runners-up, referred to as a Newbery Honor. I have found that without exception, the books I've read that have received the "Newbery Nod" have been stories of the highest quality. (Excerpts taken from Wikipedia.)
The western foothills and valleys of the Olympic Mountains are home to the Rain Forest of the Olympic Peninsula. A wide variety of animals, birds, and insects make their home here - it is the inspiration for the animal fantasy middle grade novel I'm trying to finish!
This week's featured plant is the Sword Fern. Although this fern is prevalent throughout Washington State - it grows like a carpet across the floor of the Rain Forest; in some places it literally covers acres!
The stems of the Sword Fern are often six feet long, and the tips are a favorite food for elk and deer.
Flap Copy description:
"How brave are you, little Annemarie?" Uncle Henrik asks his ten-year-old niece. It is 1943, and to Annemarie Johansen, life in Copenhagen is a complicated mix of ordinary home and school life, food shortages, and the constant presence of Nazi soldiers. Bravery seems a vague virtue - and possessed by dragon-slaying knights in the bedtime stories she tells her younger sister, Kirsti. Too soon, she herself is called upon for courage.
As the German troops begin their campaign to "relocate" all the Jews in Denmark, the Johansens take in Annemarie's best friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is part of the family. Ellen and Annemarie must think quickly when three Nazi officers arrive late one night and question why Ellen is not blond, like her sisters...
The true story of how the Danish Resistance smuggled nearly the entire Jewish population of Denmark (almost 7,000 people) to Nazi-free Sweden by boat, is the backdrop for this middle grade novel, Number the Stars. Although most of the characters are fiction, most of the important events in this story are true. Wonderfully written, this book entertains, educates, but most of all inspires. Lois Lowry won the Newbery Medal Award of 1990 for this work.
Earlier this week I attended a "sneak-peek" of the new Fort Vancouver Regional Library - the Grand Opening is on July 17th. Although I will miss our old community library - this new one is breathtaking - take a look...
This wall is both inspiring and artistic; the entire library pushes the architectural boundaries of tradition out the window! By the way, the old facility will become the new home for the business and administrative offices, for all thirteen library branches in Clark County.
The children's section takes up a full floor of the library; complete with lots of opportunities for educational interaction - like the little boat! This will be a familiar area to me, since I volunteer at the library on Tuesday mornings, helping out with the children.
Earlier in my blog I mentioned this new library and I said that it has four stories; technically it is considered to have five stories - with the basement floor. The openness and light in this modern facility are wonderful - it will help to brighten even the grayest of Northwest days!
Although I am an avid reader of adult novels, I must confess to spending alot of time in the children's section. Check out my blog on Mondays; Bibliophile's Corner includes a book review of great children's literature every week.
This beautiful south facing observation deck includes bamboo trees, metal sculptures, and an amazing view of the Columbia River! If you are a local, be sure and check out your new library later this month, when it will be open to the public. I hope you enjoyed this tour of one of my new favorite places.
It has occurrred to me that to be a successful children's book writer, I would do well to become as a child - at least occasionally.
Like most Type A people, I am a borderline workaholic; now it seems I need to work at having fun!
After a relaxing and enjoyable holiday weekend at our cabin, I am noticing how much more energized and inspired I feel.
I encourage you to enjoy your summer as much as possible - while still focusing on your goals as a writer. I can't help but believe that the more alive we are as writers - the more alive, too, will be our writing!
Yes, that is me. As you can see my hair does not like the moisture in my beloved Olympic National Forest! (Does Rosanna, Rosanna, Danna ring a bell?) Since I haven't posted on Thursdays for awhile, I thought I would share a few nature photos of the vegetation near our cabin. Each week, for the rest of the summer, I will share a new plant.
Our first example of indigenous vegetation in the rain forest is the Salmonberry, blooming in early summer. It is a favorite food not only of birds and bears, but of my husband, Michael, too! He enjoys having his hot oatmeal with a scattering of salmonberries on top. Since this berry is rarely used commercially, it is that much more enjoyed by the local folks.
Flap Copy description:
It's 1775 and General Washington is in serious trouble. He has a ragtag army, a few muskets and some cannons, and no money to fight the world's most powerful empire. His only hope of beating the British is to wage an invisible war - a war of spies and deception.
You are about to enter the shadowy world of double agents and covert operations, of codes and ciphers - a world so secret that even the spymaster himself doesn't know the identities of some of his agents. You'll meet members of the elusive Culper Ring, uncover a "mole" in the Sons of Liberty, and see how invisible ink and even a clothesline were used to send messages, as you follow the successes and failures of the Americans in their War of Independence.
This historical book for young readers documents the true story of how our nation used espionage to help win our War of Independence. The author, Thomas B. Allen, has written an interesting and informative text based on his in depth research of historical documents. The section detailing Benedict Arnold is especially enlightening. The book includes a map, timeline, spy terms, and the Code that was actually used by General Washington. I would recommend George Washington, Spymaster to anyone who enjoys U.S. history - or has a desire to become a secret agent someday! Happy Independence Day!
Recently I attended a Writers' Mixer at Cover to Cover Books and Espresso; where the speaker, Randal Houle, discussed the importance of writing strong minor characters into your story. One point he made was that you can reveal more of your major characters' traits by having the minor characters reactions to them.
The following week I went through my text and strengthened my secondary and minor characters. It made a big improvement, thanks Randal Houle!
While I'm mentioning my current work in progress, I will give you a brief update. I am still on track to finish the re-write of my animal fantasy by mid-late August. My plan is to spend a couple of weeks in September revising (strengthening verbs, etc.) and two additional weeks editing (grammar and punctuation) my story. The goal is to attend the SCBWI Fall Retreat at Silver Falls Conference Center, in Sublimity, Oregon, in October. Wish me luck!