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.