Monday, June 30, 2008

Beginnings and Endings

Nothing affirms that YUP, I'm moving to China quite like having needles stuck into my triceps. (Typhoid--ouch. Hepatitis--not so bad. Japanese encephalitis--the shot matter what I tell my kids.) So today, in another step to prepare for our upcoming move, I hauled the kids and my mom to get First Aid trained.

(Did you notice the beautiful splint I administered on my mom?)
And then in perfect yet poignant counterpoint to this new beginning, the readergirlz co-founders (Lorie Ann Grover, Janet Lee Carey, Dia Calhoun and I) joined countless other authors tonight, including Liz Gallagher (THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE)
to bid one of the most ardent champions of reading and writers a fond farewell. Today marked the last day that Chauni and Bill Hauslet helmed one of my favorite bookstores: All for Kids Books.

(Pictured here: Holly Cupala, Janet Lee Carey, Lorie Ann Grover, Dia Calhoun, and the Hauslet duo of wonder.)

While Seattle has lost one of its most precious institutions, I am thrilled that Chauni and Bill get to relax at last.

Thankfully, Seattle still claims Rene Kirkpatrick of Third Place Books as one of our own. If you ever need a YA book recommendation, she's the one to ask. We do--all the time at readergirlz!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What writers do in the name of research... I've gone buildering and rock climbing when I prefer both feet on the ground. I've snowboarded when I'm a skier at heart--a cross-country skier at heart. (The headfirst trip down the mountain, strapped into a toboggan, was unintentional research. So was the reconstructive knee surgery.) I've tromped all over China, interviewed adoption agencies, taken collage classes, and took up geocaching as a new hobby. All in the name of my writing.

And now, I can claim that I've attended my first ever FAIRY AND HUMAN RELATIONS CONGRESS, thanks to a fantasy novel I'm working on.

Yesterday, along with 100 believers in the sunny and hot Methow Valley in Central Washington, I communed with fairies, dragging my daughter with me. We chanted our love for the earth fairies and the water fairies, introduced ourselves by song as we danced in two concentric circles, listened to a workshop leader channel Aphrodite.

Daughter to me, muttered as she skipped in front of me in her circle: Dad would have hated this.

Me, fluttering my hands in the air: Yes, yes, that's why he's in FINANCE, not writing.
Daughter, glaring:

Me, spinning: Aren't you glad you get to go on field trips with me instead of Dad?

We made offerings to the fairies. We watched a healer channel Aphrodite. We listened to fairy music (performed by humans, not fairies). We spoke to wiccans. After a thirty-minute meditation, asking fairies how we humans can be of service to them, we shared our revelations. People heard new fairy songs. Others were given mystical messages.
As for me? I got a new scene for my story.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Being a true geek, I admit to watching the behind-the-scenes, making-of segments with directors and actors. (And yes, while I'm in a confessing mood, I'm also the annoying one who insists on staying in the theater until ALL of the credits have scrolled. Right down to the legalese. I feel it's the least I can do to applaud the work of the poor assistant to the assistant to the assistant of the first grip or whatever those mysterious film jobs are.)

So I thought: what if I created a little video that showed some of the real-live places that inspired my forthcoming NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL? Part of the book takes place in China, which is convenient since in a few short weeks I'll be residing there.
With my handy-dandy new flip camera (I mean, my husband's new handy-dandy Father's Day gift), I've been shooting footage while we're here in the Methow Valley, the setting for my book.

In one scene, I alluded briefly to the Tripod fire that burned through thousands and thousands of acres of forest land here in the Methow.

We went hiking this morning to Tiffany Mountain, which was devastated by the fire. Eerie moonscape, scoured to a charcoal black. Hollowed out trees on the verge of toppling. And then in the midst of all this carbon, a few patches of brilliant purple lupines... Proof that hope survives after tragedy. But of the swarming mosquitos--I'm not sure what to make of them.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bright and early this morning, the moving truck rumbled down our street and parked its behemothness in front of our driveway. The truck was a tad overkill for the amount of stuff we're taking with us to China, a mansion for a mouse. But it made its point: We. Are. Moving.

Saying goodbye to my kids' friends and their moms didn't make our move real. Not even packing up the clothes and toys that we're hauling with us did the trick. The actual concept of us moving only started to feel real when my hubby broke it to me: "You can only bring 50 books with you into China."

Me: Excuse me?

Hubby: 50 books, babe.


Hubby (staring at the mound o' books I'd been stockpiling): You can't take them all with you.


Hubby: I won't pack any.

Me: But ..but...but I have my research books. And my need-to-read books. And my readergirlz books. And all of the kids' books.

Hubby: 50 books.

So as my books were hauled away, Reality Sank In. As of August 17th, it will be ziejian to the U.S. for a year. (And I really do only have 50 books... if you happen to be truly abysmal in math. Like me.)

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A long, long, LONG year ago, Burton Snowboards and YouthVenture agreed to partner with me on the

so that we could fund the best youth-led ideas to change the world. We pledged to give away $12,000 in Challenge Grant funds.

And today--at long last--the judging of the grant applications began. I can't tell you how gratifying it was to meet some of the applicants in person and hear their ideas firsthand. These teens blew me away with their passion and smarts and poise.

Go, teens who are changing the world!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Being a gifty girl (definition: one who loves to buy little something, somethings for those she loves), I've made it a tradition of bestowing my editor and her editorial assistant with trinkets that symbolize my book and honor our work together.

I realize that I should be packing up for China. After all, the movers are coming in 6 days. Argh! However, procrastination is my strong suit.

So imagine my glee when I trolled my favorite crafting obsession, ETSY, and found a pendant made out of vintage maps, decoupaged on a vintage Scrabble piece! Could a more perfect trinket be had to commemorate my forthcoming NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL, which is about a mapmaker's daughter?

I've packaged up the pendants, tied them with my other crafting obsession--my MOO cards, and don't they look cute?!--and shipped them out today. I hope my editors like them and know how much I adore them!

Monday, June 9, 2008

For as much as I embrace all the girl-power, hi-YAH, you-go-grrl spirit, let's be super clear: I am a wimp...when it comes to the paranormal.

Ever since last summer when I stayed in this century-old house for two weeks, I've literally been haunted. Not by a ghost, but a wisp of a concept for a ghost story.
Anyway, who needs to pack for my upcoming move to China? It was time to for some serious procrastination. I mean, research. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, I am a wimp!

Case in point: this is me, cowering behind a pillow as I watched some ghosthunter documentary.

Cue husband: "Ummm...did you happen to forget our HONEYMOON when I rented that windmill in Greece? And that entire night you kept thinking you saw a toga-wearing ghost?"

Translation: "Ummmm...honey, this book just isn't in the cards for you."

He's right as always. I couldn't sleep all night, thinking about that stupid documentary. (Okay, okay, I was *terrified* by that stupid documentary.) Goodbye, ghost story.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I suck at saying goodbye. Really, I do. Goodbye to clothes with sentimental value (that hideous mustard yellow jacket that I bought with my first paycheck...why? why?). Goodbye to books (I miss them as soon as I loan them out). And especially goodbye to good my critique group

who threw me an early-adios party, complete with my own pom pom cheer!
Pictured here: Holly Cupala, Molly Blaisdell, Janet Lee Carey, Judy Bodmer, and me. Unpictured: Katherine Grace Bond, Peggy King Anderson, Dawn Knight

We have a tradition of celebrating each person's book sales with a cheer, usually written by super amazing Peggy King Anderson.

This time, Holly Cupala (author of the soon-to-be-published BRIMSTONE SOUP) did the honors. Here's an excerpt:

On to new horizons now--
A vast new country off your bow!
A year of wonders, words, and fun:
Watch out, China, here she comes!

I love my critique group who are absolutely Divine.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

After the recent devastating earthquake in China and then the cyclone in Myanmar before that, I felt so utterly helpless. Other than donating money, I couldn't think of anything I could do to help.

Then I realized, sheesh, how helpful would I be in the middle of a crisis right here in the U.S.? The last time I almost died, I was with my dear and fast-thinking friend Cindy. My legs were almost lopped off by a guy who had a "seizure" in his car and careened up onto the curb where we were standing. (I think the empty vodka bottles had something to do with his "seizure.") While I stared dazedly at my car's smashed trunk--that I was just about to open, Cindy sprang into action like the former FBI agent that she was.

So today, I hauled myself on over to the American Red Cross where I took a CPR Class for Professionals. (My sister, who is studying to be a nurse--was the professional; I was not. I kept getting story ideas during the class, which may account for why I blinked uncertainly every time our instructor barked a question at me. Or not.) Even though I am now a card-carrying Red Cross trained citizen, I know that I'd still want Cindy at my side in any kind of emergency.