Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Yes, Virginia ...


I have a feeling the discussion regarding Santa is going to arise in the next year, maybe two, with our son. He's 8 years old, and asked - point blank - about Santa just about a month ago. It was at the dinner table, and his 5-year old sister was sitting with us, so we gave the usual response (and I distinctly remember looking down at my plate, rather than into his eyes, as I answered). He didn't bring it up again. His request from Santa this year was bigger than usual ... not one that Santa was prepared to deliver on. And, despite our best efforts ... a couple missteps on his parents' part may have him wondering again, I fear ... though, he has said nothing of the sort.

As I was thinking about how to handle that discussion when it finally comes up, I couldn't help but remember the classic book, "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus".

I had never even heard of it until two years ago, when my mother-in-law asked if I'd ever read it. On one of her trips here, she brought me her copy ... purchased in 1972. A beautiful, well-preserved book ... with a timeless message. A couple weeks later, a brand new copy arrived in the mail for me. A gift from my mother-in-law.

I don't plan to read it to my kids just yet ... maybe not even next year. Time will tell. But, I think this is the one I'll pull out when they finally look me in the eyes and asked me the question, "Mom ... is Santa real?"

"Yes, Virginia..." centers around a little girl (Virginia ... obviously), who asks that question. The older printing of the book provides a bit more back story than the new printing, explaining that Virginia's dad, upon hearing the question, tells his daughter to ask The New York Sun ... because what they say is always true. So ... she writes to the editor of the New York Sun.

The treasured, timeless response by Mr. Francis Pharcellus Church, in the year 1897, was eventually turned into book form. And, thank goodness for that ... it is a classic and is as wonderfully relevant today as I'm sure it was back then.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dear Costco ...


Thank you for the Gingerbread House you sold this year.

First, it was a bargain ... maybe $10, and well worth every penny.
Especially considering it came with the following glorious words printed on the box: "Pre-Built".

That would be the second wonderful thing ... there was no constructing required, save for a small tree.
It was all about the frosting and decorations ... fun, fun, fun.
It even came with a snowman and a gingerbread man. So cute.

And, here's the third and most wonderful thing of all about your gingerbread house ... it's indestructible.

We can certify this.

As we moved into position to snap a quick picture of the finished product - our children beaming with pride at the creation they had labored over for an hour - my son, who was holding the glass cake platter that now displayed the gingerbread house, slipped right off his chair.

In a split second, he was flat on the floor.

Somehow, he saved the glass cake platter, his arm held high over his head with the platter firmly in his grip.

But, the gingerbread house had crashed to the floor.

Amazingly ... the side peak of the roof was the only spot that sustained damage.
Minor, considering the 'earthquake' that had just occurred.

So, thank you ... for selling a product that not only brought joy to the children who decorated it (and the parents who didn't have to construct it), but held together through a fall that could have destroyed an hour's worth of careful decorating within a matter of seconds!

Please, please ... sell it again next year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Al's ...

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Winter, spring, summer, fall ... there is a place I gravitate to no matter the season ... Al's Garden Center.

For Christmas, this phenomenal garden center is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with freshly-cut Christmas trees, a stunning variety of poinsettias, gorgeous holiday decor, and winter treats ... like their exclusive Ice apples ... Fuji applies that have been left on the tree until just after the first frost. To bite into one is pure heaven ... crisp and sweet.

Do you have a favorite place that you love to visit, no matter the season?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Heard the Bells ...


A few years ago, my husband and I attended an amazing Christmas concert with Steven Curtis Chapman and Mercy Me. During the concert, as a deep base beat and the melody to "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" played ever-so-softly in the background, they shared with the audience a glimpse of the events that had inspired the lyrics to this song, written by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow so very long ago on Christmas Day in 1864.

I was completely unaware of the origin of the song before that night.

After the concert, I investigated further, seeking more detail to the story. I learned that, in a very short time span, Longfellow had lost his wife to a tragic accident in their home, and his son had returned - critically injured - from the American Civil War that was devastating his beloved country.

I can only imagine that his faith was being tested beyond measure and his hope for peace - in his country and his own life - was weak.

Something changed on Christmas Day 1864 when Longfellow penned the poem, originally titled "Christmas Bells". Maybe it was the re-election of Abraham Lincoln and, with that, the possible end of the terrible war; maybe it was the relief that came from his son surviving; or maybe it was the churches that - during the war - would ring their bells on Christmas as a call for ceasefire, bringing peace to the nation, if only for a day.

Knowing the history behind the words has made this song become even more beautiful, sorrowful, haunting, and hopeful.

In many ways, it is a call for peace. Something we all hope for.

So, as the holiday season kicks off, I've been listening repeatedly to this very song .... take a listen to the Casting Crowns version, from their 'Peace on Earth' CD at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7670CXvPX0&feature=related.

Wishing you peace this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a blessed one!

"Turkey" by B, November 2008

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day Tribute

Our children's school holds the most amazing and inspiring tribute to our Veterans with an annual Veteran's Day Chapel.

The children, ranging in age from 5 to 15, sing patriotic songs with such passion and might, it takes my breath away and makes me smile. Here is just a sampling ... the 1st through 3rd grade choir (including my son!):

video

A song, "Letters from War", and accompanying video by Mark Schultz is played ... take a look @ http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6534897612011365856&hl=en# but grab a tissue first (pssst ... the ending is happy!).

Each branch of the military is honored and applauded, as they ask Veterans and active-duty members to stand and be recognized.

A list of wars, including the number of individuals who participated and the precious souls who were lost is read ... and those who served in those wars are asked to stand and be thanked with applause.

And, an active-duty Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, also a parent at the school, speaks ... words of such wisdom for our youth, who are being made aware how very lucky we are to live where we live.

The ceremony opens and closes with a moving bagpipe solo.

All of it, quite frankly, has by heart leaping into my throat ... tears welling up in the corners of my eyes, as the human cost of all these wars and how thankful I feel settles into my brain.

Wouldn't it be nice if all the world believed peace to be the answer?

Thank you to all the men and women who serve, and thank you to the families of those who serve, including my sister and brother-in-law. You sacrifice - in so many ways - for the sake of our freedom.

Be safe.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pumpkin Faces


Children's imaginations never cease to amaze me. They think big ... they have no limitations ... they aren't bound by reason.

These lovely pumpkins were created by my hubby, 5-year old daughter, and 8-year old son. See the one in the middle ... the one with two faces (puppy faces, mind you!) ... that was the creation of the 5-year old. She actually wanted to do three faces on her pumpkin, but it was a bit too small.

My hubby thought the idea was brilliant. After all, why does a pumpkin have to have only one face? He's got it all planned out for next year ... three faces carved into one large pumpkin ... which is then placed on a spinning, lazy susan-like tray!

So cool ... and, all because of a 5-year old's imagination.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bringing Autumn Indoors

Our little family adores a local pumpkin patch that resides on an island. Annually, we make our way to the opposite end of town to this quiet farming community, where we enjoy a hayride out to the pumpkin patch, picking pumpkins, visiting the livestock, climbing on hay bales, and shopping in their local store for fruits and veggies straight from the garden.

This year's first attempt was on a perfect fall day ... temps in the low 60s and a clear blue sky. As is par for the course in a region that rains a lot ... everyone had decided to make the same trip. As we sat in traffic, and watched the little cars off in the distance inching their way across the two-lane bridge and down the two-lane road leading to the pumpkin patch, we realized it was probably time to turn around. We had been in the car for nearly an hour, and estimated an additional two hours to inch our way there.

The following weekend, plans were made once again ... and, this time, it poured ... and poured! Sure, there would be no crowds ... but it wasn't really the experience we were going for.

Maybe we'll have a successful trip this coming weekend ... or maybe not! I'm learning to 'go with the flow' a bit more these days.

In the mean time, we've brought autumn inside the house.


My sweet friend, Kelli, owns a wonderful Real Deals on Home Decor store. She was having a sale; and, we, being small business owners ourselves, had to go support our fellow small business owner!

Look at the gorgeous pumpkins we found. And, those beautiful oak leaves. The turning colors of the leaves are my favorite part of autumn outdoors ... why not bring them inside (without the mess once they turn crispy and crumble all over the floor!).

And, how can you resist children's art ... doesn't it just make you smile?

Do you decorate your indoors for autumn or Halloween?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Autumn Brings ...

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~ A rich, warm color scheme to the porch and patio ~
~ A bee frantically working on late-blooming asters ~
~ A tiny frog protecting the remnants of the garden ...
including a pumpkin that may or may not be ready for Halloween ~

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For My Grandpa


I was fairly convinced my Grandpa Don would live to the grand age of 100. My son, just days ago and out of the blue, prayed that his Great-Grandpa would live to claim that century-old mark.

He had struggled over the past few years. Throughout his lifetime, he was an avid walker … literally logging multiple miles per day well into his 80s. When his legs started getting weaker and tripping became more common, he reluctantly gave up his outdoor walks and purchased a treadmill. Eventually, even that became too much for his legs.

This last July, he turned 94. In the days before that life achievement, he had reluctantly moved into a retirement home, selling the house that he had built with his wife and lived in for 60 years. My Grandma passed away 18 years of days ago. He missed her terribly every one of those days. I suspect he stayed in that house for so long because so many memories of grandma still existed there.

He was a sweet, kind, generous, wise, and unassuming man. His smile lit up his face. He adored and admired each and every one of his 3 daughters and sons-in law, 11 grandchildren and their spouses, and 24 (and counting) great-grandchildren.

For several summers in a row, in my pre-teen years, he and grandma would take my sister, Heidi, and I on long road trips, fifth-wheel trailer in tow, visiting wonderful sites in the western United States and Canada. To this day, they are some of my fondest memories of Grandpa. And, they were his too. Being in his 90s seemed to make those memories even sharper for him, and he would ask, “Kelly, do you remember the trips we used to take?” And, then, we would proceed to laugh about the time we saw the baby bear in a campground, or the time we waited out a tornado warning, or our regular requests from Grandma for ‘just a smidge’ of ice cream … which was code for ‘lots of ice cream in a huge bowl’.

When I picked up my daughter from school today, I told her that her great-grandpa Don had gone to heaven this morning. “That makes me so sad,” she said softly, but then pepped up when we started talking about him being in heaven with the Grandma she never knew.

As we were driving to daycare, she asked, “Mommy, are you crying?” “Yes, sweetie … Mommy’s a little sad right now,” I responded. “Would you like a hug when we get to Judy’s (daycare)?” she asked gently. “Yes, that would be very nice,” I said with a smile.

Both my children adored their Grandpa Don. My daughter, though, had an amazing connection with him that started when she was just a toddler. She seemed to gravitate to him … wanting to be near him … even in the midst of Christmas gifts and cousins, she always made her way to where he was sitting, either to help him unwrap a gift or sit on his lap.

One of their last memories of him will be when we visited his new apartment at the retirement home. My son thought the miniature version of a house that Grandpa was now living in was so very cool. And, my daughter got the pleasure of riding on the seat of Great-Grandpa’s walker as he pushed her around the first floor of the building.

I am thankful for the time my children had with him.

I am thankful for the time my husband knew him … he adored my husband.

I am thankful for all the wonderful memories I have of him.

I am thankful he lived a long, mostly healthy 94 years. I am sad that it ended with a fall that injured his head and brain in a way that he couldn’t recover. I am sad that he was in pain during his last couple days. But, I am thankful that the pain didn’t last any longer.

I am sad that he is not here on earth with us anymore. But, I am thankful that he is now in heaven, enjoying a beautiful, long-awaited reunion with his beloved wife.

I will miss him terribly.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Summer Into Fall

I adore autumn. There is something about the crisp, coolness of the air, the vivid leaf colors, the comforting smells of cinnamon and spice, and the anticipation of the upcoming holidays that has always won autumn the title of 'favorite season' for me.

One of my favorite signals that fall is approaching are our Crape Myrtles. They are gorgeous year-round, whether it be their leaves or their bark, but ... from late summer into fall, they are stunning show-stoppers.

As the rest of the garden is withering into a state of brownness, these beautiful plants are in their prime, with an eye-catching show of berry-like buds that transform into colorful, popcorn-like blooms.

In my opinion, they are a perfectly cheerful way to close out the summer months and add an additional pop of unexpected color in the fall. And, really ... who couldn't use that?!

~ Happy Autumn ~

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Swift


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An amazing display at sunset.

The Vaux's Swift birds migrate south each fall. The chimney of Chapman School in North Portland has been their chosen September roosting place since the 1980s. Each night, at sunset, thousands of the little birds make their way into the chimney to rest for the night.

Last night's display featured a predator ... knowing the sun was setting, waiting atop the chimney for its prey. After seemingly watching from above and waiting for the predator to leave, one little swift succumbed to the much bigger bird, so that his friends could make their way into the chimney for a night of rest.

As their name would imply, they are quite the little aerialists ... always in constant, swirling motion. At times, their flight patterns seemed to take on the shape of cylinders, as they prepared to dive into the chimney. Controlled and chaotic, all at once. Another miracle of nature.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

At the Coast ...

~ We relax and enjoy ~
~ Hope you are enjoying the last 'official' days of summer ~
(Click on image to view larger!)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Gem of a Book

I got very lucky. When she released "The Heart is Not a Size" earlier this year, National Book Award nominee Beth Kephart held a contest, with the winners receiving a copy of her book. I was thrilled to be one of the winners of my dear blog friend's newest release.

I adore Beth ... her blog posts are always interesting, enchanting, and thoughtful; and she strikes me as being gracious and warm, funny and brilliant. I am always drawn in by the way she describes scenes and people and situations.

"The Heart Is Not a Size" was no exception.

As I read this beautiful story, I was awestruck by the poetic nature of Beth's writing. I was constantly marveling at her descriptions. I couldn't help pausing on numerous occasions, thinking to myself, "how in the world did she come up with that way to say it?!" Such as one scene where the main characters exit a stable, and she writes, "When we reached that place where the shadows were intersected by the sun...". It doesn't feel forced, as if she's trying to impress the reader ... it feels perfectly effortless and elegant ... just like Beth herself.

Today, Beth celebrates the release of her 12th book (WOW!!), "Dangerous Neighbors". Stop by her blog at Beth Kephart Books to celebrate with her. Congratulations, Beth!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Memories

Don't you just love it when a sound or smell or taste transports you back to a wonderful childhood memory?

We traveled to Eastern Washington last weekend to celebrate a couple family birthdays. While there, it quickly became apparent - as the distant sound of turbine engines made its way from the river all the way up the hill to where we were staying - that the hydros were in town!

As a child, I lived in a neighborhood that sat just off a street that had a perfect bird's eye view of the river. In the week leading up to Sunday's big race day, every time I would hear the hydroplane engines fire up, I would run, walk, or ride my bike down to the street, and perch myself on the sidewalk corner to watch as the boats tweaked and tested and practiced on the river, in preparation for race day. I would scan the newspaper, looking for any article regarding the boats and drivers and then committing the information to memory.

Then came race day, and the annual BBQ at my house. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins would descend upon our home for food and race-watching. One of my favorite dishes during those BBQs was as simple as they come ... garden-fresh cucumbers, Walla Walla Sweet onions, rice vinegar, salt, and ice all mixed together.

This past weekend, before leaving town on Sunday, we headed to my old stomping grounds and were able to catch two race heats. I felt like a kid again ... except that I knew nothing of most of the boats and drivers, like I used to! And, I didn't have the cukes & onions on-hand ... though, that was fixed after we returned home! :-)

Hope your summer is sparking wonderful memories as well.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sweetness is ...

A 4-year old 'coordinating' a cancer walk!


"Let's go on a cancer walk!" said our daughter last night, as we prepared for our nightly walk around the neighborhood. ('Cancer Walks' are what we call the walks we do each year to raise money to find a cure for breast cancer.) She urged us all to wear our matching pink American Cancer Society t-shirts ... and, we obliged. With urgency, she then ran to get her 'Cancer Walk' bear, so he came along too!

And ....

An 8-year old hoping that the Chocolate Mint plant in our back yard will yield ... what else ... chocolate mints!


"Has that plant got any chocolate mints on it yet?" asked our son. I had to double-check that he wasn't pulling my leg ... but, he was nothing but serious. And, very disappointed when I told him that, unfortunately, it didn't grow chocolate mint candies. I must admit ... that would be cool!

Some trivia ... did you know that mint plants have square stems,
rather than the typical round stem that most plants have?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Good Things Await

Waiting. For me, it is one of the hardest parts of the writing profession. Not just waiting for any response ... waiting for a positive response! So, I'm turning to the outdoors for a little lesson in enjoying and appreciating the wait. Granted, my garden provides a much more colorful and interesting perspective on waiting than my e-mail in-box and mailbox. Daily, there are beautiful berries needing to be monitored for ripeness and new blooms opening on the hydrangeas. Soon, the backyard will be bursting with color. It's easy to see that good things await ... and I'm certain that will be the case for the writing as well.






Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Phil Collins' Affect on Grocery Shopping ... An Extremely Informal Study

Not long ago, I was at the grocery store when Phil Collins' "You Can't Hurry Love" came blaring across the store speakers. I couldn't help but sing - out loud but discreetly - with the music, after quickly glancing to see if anyone else was in the aisle with me.

I stopped singing as I turned to go into the next aisle, only to discover the person in that aisle singing out loud, right along with Phil. I grinned as I passed that individual; and, then, chuckled out loud as I turned into the produce section to find an employee bopping up and down to the beat of the music. Before the song ended, I passed one more person swaying their head and shoulders to the catchy tune.

To my knowledge, none of them saw me or had the slightest inkling that I was secretly marveling at the fact that one song had just put four people in a very similar, happy, upbeat place. It may have only lasted three minutes, but we all had something in common during those brief moments.

Music is powerful ... it can bring people together; but it can also evoke a whole spectrum of emotions based on your time and place in life. A tune that one considers happy; another may consider sad. Lyrics that stir up longing in one person; may bring contentment to another. A beat that makes one person feel the need to dance; may make another person feel the need to sit.

I often think of Steven Curtis Chapman, who was inspired to write the beautiful song, "Cinderella", as he marveled at how quickly his oldest daughter had grown up. In the blink of an eye, it seemed, she was graduating from college and getting engaged. And, how the meaning of those lyrics changed so drastically and instantly for him with the tragic death of his youngest daughter. One song, one person ... with the words "she'll be gone" taking on a devastatingly different meaning.

Music, at its best, tells a story and pulls us in. We may be inspired by the beat, mesmerized by the tune, or drawn to the words.

As for Phil, he speaks the truth ... you simply can't hurry love; and, as it turns out, the tune through which he expresses that message really helps to kick the grocery-shopping experience up a notch!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away ...

In the midst of the coldest May on record in 10 years; and the wettest May on record in 5 years ... nature comes through for us, with beautiful signs of spring. I love looking out the window and seeing these bursts of color amongst the wet and gray:




























Don't get me wrong ... I appreciate the beauty that is the end-product of all the rain. But, sometimes, enough is enough.

The weather pros are predicting the possibility of a dry holiday weekend. That would be a welcome change indeed!

Wishing you a wonderful, safe, and relaxing Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Idea Brainstorming with Budding Young Authors!

A few weeks ago, I shared a post about a presentation I made to a group of talented Young Authors and Illustrators, ranging in age from 1st grade to 8th grade.

Today, I got to do some hands-on work with a group of 20 first and second graders. What enthusiastic learners they were! We did an idea-brainstorming session. I had them close their eyes and put their heads down on their desks (asking them to promise not to fall asleep! :-)) while I went through a series of topics ... favorite foods, icky foods, travels, people, pets, buildings, heroics, sports, holidays, buildings. I want to them to hang on to one personal memory that 'jumped' into their mind as I read through the list of topics.

When they opened their eyes, they had to quickly write down the one memory that stuck in their mind. Then, we did a free-write about that memory. It could be all true; or, it could be truth sprinkled with fiction. It didn't have to be perfect ... that's what editing is for. I just wanted them to write.

And, ohhh, the ideas they had! As they each shared what they had written, we picked out the main character (and even secondary characters!), plot twists, themes, setting, and descriptive words.

But, truly ... I'm not sure they need my help. See the illustrations here? They are from my son's Young Authors' book submission, "The Case of the Missing Hitch".

My son is into trucks, trailers, the hitches that connect the two together, and ... dogs! His story combines those loves within a mystery format. The story is adorable, and the illustrations put my attempts to be artistic to shame! In the second picture, the dog is sitting on his dog bed in the trailer with the missing hitch (note the red item to the left of the dog ... I love that the trailer has a dishwasher!).

The classes of 2020 and 2021 hold the promise of some talented writers. I'm looking forward to reading their published words some day!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Deep Water

It’s a love-hate relationship.

Vast bodies of water are one of my absolute favorite experiences. The power of an endless, roaring ocean; the inspiring sight of a sparkling blue lake; water so still it provides a mirror-perfect reflection of trees and mountains or touched by the wind to create ripples and whitecaps; ferries carrying their precious cargo; boats lining a marina. So much for the senses to take in.

Funny, how I have fear of the very thing I am drawn to. I am interested in looking at it; in being on top of it. I have little desire to be in it or under it.

While my husband snorkeled in Maui; I floated along the top of the water, dipping my head in every so often to take a picture of him. I’ve always considered breathing underwater to be a thing best left for fish! Water skiing was cause for internal struggle. The skiing part was exhilarating; but my delight was tempered by having to begin and end in the deep, dark water.

Thankfully, on numerous occasions, a love for adventure and desire to challenge myself has prevailed over my fear. A trip to picturesque Orcas Island, part of the San Juan Islands of Washington, was host to one such occasion. When visiting Orcas, a popular thing to do is go sea kayaking in the Puget Sound.

Let’s take just a moment to analyze these two words:

Sea = deep, vast water; animals swimming amongst and beneath, including whales.
Kayaking = self-propelled human travel via a narrow, canoe-like, tippable boat, using an oar.

Our trip began with a lesson in how to maneuver the kayak and handle a possible tip. The very mention of which caused a combination of heart palpitations and nervous goosebumps. We were led to believe that, if our kayak were to tip over, we could perform a kayak roll using a swift lift-of-the-torso-hip-flicking-paddle-pushing action. I was fairly certain, though I didn’t share this with the guide or my husband, that – if I were upside down in the sea in a kayak – I would be spending more time figuring out how to get my lower half loose from the skirt attaching me to the kayak, and less time perfecting the roll technique.

Thankfully, neither method was put to the test.

As we floated away from the dock, getting a feel for how to propel and steer the vessel with our paddles and realizing the kayak was more stable than expected, the pounding in my chest slowed.

The sights and sounds surrounding us were stunning: water gently lapping against the kayak, hills of evergreens, snow-capped mountains, and blue sky mottled with cotton-ball clouds. It was peaceful, exhilarating, and the fact that I was playing a part in making the kayak move forward and turn filled me with a sense of strength.

As our group paddled out to the open sea, seals poked their heads out of the water to watch as we paddled through their space. A sea plane descended from the sky, landing effortlessly on the water. And, much larger vessels glided by, causing ripples that created a mini-roller coaster sensation for us kayakers. Unfortunately, though … no Orca whales were spotted. We would see them frolicking in the water at another time and place.

When the day was done, I was filled with energy and passion for the sport. My husband and I even discussed the possibility of purchasing a kayak to use on the river back home. Of course, those dreams were tempered by the reality of an apartment balcony that could not accommodate a large kayak and the realization that our visits to the river would likely be few and far between.

The kayak was not the important thing, though … it was the exhilarating feeling of a fear overcome. It’s still not my preference to be in the deep water. But I learned that, sometimes, the deepest water can bring the greatest joy.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Young Authors Day

What an honor ... this morning, I got to present to an enthusiastic and talented group of young writers and illustrators at my son's school's Young Authors Day. I'll admit to my stomach being in knots, leading up to this morning, as I tried to figure out the best writing information to share with a gymful of kids ranging in age from 1st to 8th grade within the timeframe allotted.

Throughout my professional life, whether presenting to staff or colleagues, a board or students, or - now - children and teachers, it has always been the anticipation that has worn on me the most. I worry and fret, I perfect, I analyze, I probably overprepare ... but, once I'm in front of everyone and talking and interacting, I'm completely calm and comfortable. If only I could make the preparation process as pleasant as the experience itself!

Are any of you the same way?

Nonetheless ... this morning, I'm taking a deep breath. Things went well ... and the knots are unraveling.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring's Appearance ...

... proven this past weekend, with a trip to the Tulip Festival.













Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Easter Bunny Seat

It was all very thoughtfully planned ...

the Easter Bunny might want to sit for a while, so they spread out the quilt my mother made for me two Christmases ago;

then they thought about what a bunny might like to eat ... and decided on an apple and 5 dark chocolate pomegranate pieces;

then came the discussion of a drink ... we're not talking Santa here, so no milk ... plain water should be fine;

and two notes ... one instructing that this spot they had created was the 'Easter Bunny Seat', and the other cheerfully wishing him/her a great Easter.

And, all of it flanked by their Easter baskets ... with the hope of good things to come.

It made me smile.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Christina Katz's Author Mama E-Book Release Interview

In Author Mama, Christina Katz's new e-book, she shares her personal experience walking through the traditional book-deal process and book-writing experience and offers tips along the way, addressing common myths and challenging writers to get ready for the marathon that is writing a book.

Why would you do an e-book after two traditionally published books?

Like most traditionally published authors, who blog, teach, and speak, I have a backlog of quality content to draw on and some of it, though not all of it, will lend itself to the e-book format. So I plan to write several e-books over time and Author Mama is the first. I have old sketchbooks full of ideas I’ve had over the years, which will lend themselves well to e-formats. Equal opportunity access to e-publishing technology offers all of us writers a lot more creative leeway than we have traditionally had, which can lead to exciting and fun possibilities.

Besides being in e-book format, how is Author Mama different from Writer Mama and Get Known Before the Book Deal?

Author Mama is the story behind how I landed my book deal for Writer Mama and then wrote the book. I wanted to describe in play-by-play form what writing a non-fiction book is like for the benefit of moms considering the possibility with the lessons I learned along the way. One of my students who is on the verge of querying agents with a nonfiction book proposal says that Author Mama “goes there.” In other words, it deals squarely with the rollercoaster ride that most first-time authors experience. The format of my traditionally published books is not as driven by my personal experience, even though it informs them both. In Author Mama, I include all of the books that I recommend first-time authors read before, during, and after the book deal, so they can become as informed and empowered as possible.

Who are the intended readers for Author Mama?

Well, my two traditionally published books don’t target the same exact audience and neither does Author Mama. When I wrote Author Mama, I had my Writer Mama readers in mind, but of those readers, I was specifically focused on anyone seriously considering writing a book someday. Not every writer mama wants to write a book someday. Some are perfectly happy writing and publishing articles. So Author Mama is a slice (a writing book), of a slice (for moms), of a slice (who are considering becoming an author some day), and therefore too small of an audience for a traditional publisher. But many of my students and fans have this question and would like to answer it for themselves. Author Mama is for them.

Did you have any hesitations about self-publishing?

Considering how much content I have sitting around languishing on my hard drives, I am sorry that it’s taken me this long. The person I had the hardest time convincing was myself. I’ve had some hang-ups about e-books that I’ve had to get over in order to move forward. As long as my work continues to serve the best interests of my readers, why wouldn’t I self-publish? I certainly have a lot more to offer than I would just letting it sit around collecting virtual dust. At this point in time, I feel like it would be foolish not to e-publish, even as I continue to write traditional books.

Are publishers anxious about traditional authors self-publishing? Doesn’t this undermine their business?

I think, when it comes to self-publishing the opportunity always exists to take the enlightened view or the fearful view. I have heard people in publishing make comments that authors self-publishing is terrible news, which is absurd. The fearful attitude is, “Oh no, if that author can self-publish, then we lose.” The enlightened view is that when the people you partner with are more successful it’s good for you too because it raises all boats. Besides, when all the folks involved in a partnership are empowered and come together because they want to be there, that’s good for the relationship. It’s important to have good boundaries and communication in business and know the difference between what’s yours, what’s not yours, and what is joint ownership. When you keep these things in mind, and communicate clearly, there is really nothing to fear but fear itself.

How do you keep people from "stealing" your e-book?

I can’t stop people from stealing my e-book. I am completely powerless over that aspect of e-publishing, as most of us are. However, my target audience is not teenage boys and young men, who are supposedly the folks who do most of the pirating, according to the experts who study these trends. So I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. Also I don’t plan on giving my e-books away to avoid the impression that they are “freebies,” whereas with a traditional book I always do a lot of giveaways to get the content out into circulation. E-books are a lot easier to circulate. I can send one to you in seconds. So at this time, I don’t see the point in giving them away and encouraging others to share them without permission. I’d prefer to sell them to a smaller, more exclusive audience, who will see the value and, hopefully, respect my copyright.

What are three major points you hope aspiring writers learn from reading Author Mama?

That landing a traditional book deal and delivering a well-written book is possible but not easy by any means.

That someone else has survived the rollercoaster of emotions that come part and parcel with a first traditional book deal and you can too.

That some writers actually give up along the way and don’t succeed at delivering their first book but this won’t happen to the writers who read Author Mama because forewarned is forearmed.

Is this book only for nonfiction writers or can fiction writers benefit from it too?

Author Mama is specifically about my nonfiction book writing process, which is different from the process for other genres like fiction or memoir. However, a lot of my readers, who write in other genres, have said over the years that they find a lot of takeaways in my nonfiction experience. Also, I fully expect Author Mama to convince a few readers to try writing a nonfiction book, who might have only considered themselves other types of writers or not even writers at all.

Can I order a print copy of Author Mama?

When the book comes out in the final version in May, I will make it available for purchase in print-on-demand format, as well as all the other e-formats. During April, while it’s in beta, Author Mama is available in PDF format, which means you can print it out and put it in a binder yourself, if you prefer a hard copy. I’ve invited the first readers to participate in the process, so I’ve included a feedback form with the e-book but participation is voluntary. However to sweeten the deal, I will provide those who share feedback on the beta version with the final version for free, after it’s updated in PDF form.

Can I order this e-book for someone as a gift?

Sure you can. When you place your order, simply submit their e-mail address in the notes section and I will e-mail the copy to them instead of to you.

Thanks for your questions about Author Mama. If you’d like to learn more, please visit http://christinakatz.com/introducing-author-mama-how-i-because-a-published-author-how-you-can-too/.

About Christina Katz, The Author Mama

Christina Katz has been teaching writers to cultivate thriving careers for the past decade. Many of her students start by writing short articles and work hard and long until they eventually succeed in landing traditional book deals. Christina is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise A Writing Career Alongside Your Kids, both from Writer’s Digest Books.

In addition to writing books and articles, Christina publishes a weekly e-zine, The Prosperous Writer, hosts The Northwest Author Series, travels to writing conferences and literary events, and coaches a hundred writers a year. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia College Chicago and a BA from Dartmouth College. She lives in an idyllic cottage in Wilsonville, Oregon with her husband, daughter and far too many pets.
Keep up with Christina at http://www.christinakatz.com/.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Easter Wish for You via Magic Beans

One of my favorite respites, Al's Garden Center, holds an Al's Kids Club event every month. For March, and in preparation for Easter, they had the kids plant 'Magic Beans'.

Here is one of the beans ... with a message of "Hope" on one side, and a picture of a butterfly on the other:












Just in time for Easter, here are the results ... no magic fairy dust required:














"Peace" ...



















"Family" ...

















A view of the other side ... flowers and a peace sign ...











Hope, peace, and family ... that is my Easter wish for you!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Come With Me to Kauai ...

I've mentioned it often ... my love of travel. Recently, and for various reasons, 'big' travel has not been able to grace our to-do list. When I start feeling antsy, but can't hop on the next flight to some wonderful destination, I look through pictures. This week, I have been enjoying Kauai. We traveled there in late 2007. Please join me on a quick photo-trip through the gorgeous island ... and be sure to play the video at the end!

Rainbow east of Kiahuna Beach ...


















Our last night on the island, we were graced with this gorgeous sunset (taken in Po'ipu) ...














Bottle Palm in the National Tropical Botanical Gardens ...



















Oh, to have a tree that looked like this one, located in the parking lot of the Botanical Gardens ...
















A stunning orchid in the Botanical Gardens ...



















A sky flower, also in the Botanical Gardens ...
















Puu HinaHina Lookout in Waimea Canyon ...















Waipo'o Falls in Waimea Canyon State Park ...



















The lush Hanalei Valley ...















Kilauea Point Lighthouse ...















Hubby heading out to snorkel ...















The Spouting Horn, seen from Kukui'ula Harbor ...













Look at that form! :-) Ziplining in Princeville (SO fun!!!) ...













Enjoy the zipline ride (courtesy of my hubby, who was holding the video camera) ...

video