One of the sweet surprises after my first book came out was being invited to schools to talk with students. As an author, I have the honor of visiting tens of thousands of students and educators each year!
Being a speaker was not something I expected when I started writing, but I love to travel and meet new people. Young writers are often enthusiastic when they discover travel can be part of being a writer.
Here are photos from my two most recent visits and a few from three of my favorite visits from past years.
Recently, I returned from a week of visits in Elko, Nevada. Frost on windows greeted me each morning. Glistening snow covered the Ruby Mountains.
End of the road. Kim was a wonderful tour guide, driving me to Lamoille, where aspen and cottonwood and beautiful country churches live.
At first I wasn't sure how I'd survive the food in Elko County. The first two restaurants I checked out had specialties of "Coke Chicken" and "Moose Drool"! :-) But the Nevada educators were fabulous hostesses and came to my rescure. One evening, they treated me to a yummy Chinese dinner, another to a Basque dinner at the famous Star Hotel Basque Family Style Restaurant. Gifts included a food basket upon arrival, a Wolf calendar compliments of one of the teacher's daughters who shares my love of wolves, a book full of cowboy poetry (Elko is famous for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (http://www.westernfolklife.org), and a Sage Elementary Dust Devil pin. Who could ask for anything more?!!
When I entered Stoneridge Elementary, I was greeted by art at every turn! It's always a treat when students have read my books and expressed themselves through art, plays, and other activities.
Even the parents got involved! Parent Jon Haupert, whose daughter attends Stoneridge, went above and beyond with a theatre for Lily and a beautiful rendition of myself as a child in a pasture with dancing cows all around! I love it!
MEMORIES FROM THE PAST:
Phillipsburg, Kansas, 2004 - A Fabulous, Big-hearted Community!
Tasis Dorado, Puerto Rico, 2005 - A Joyful, Colorful School!
Branson, Missouri, 2006 - Art and Writing Activities Everywhere!
Cynthia Mazat, a talented and energetic library media specialist, and I take pics as Joshua Summerhayes (The Pumpkin Runner) and Lily (Prancing, Dancing Lily).
Was it a dream or was it the Galapagos? For forty years, I'd dreamed of visiting the Galapagos Islands, those faraway islands west of Ecuador. I finally made it last December, 2007. It was more than worth the wait!
I woke every morning encircled by pure nature. One morning, I looked out my cabin's window to see two sea lions, playing in the ocean outside our boat, the Integrity. Another morning I stepped out of the shower and saw a green sea turtle swimming alongside.
Charles Darwin sailed to the Galapagos on the HMS Beagle, in 1835. From his observations of plants and animals there, he developed his theory of evolution. The islands are volcanic; the flora and fauna evolved in isolation, so there are lots of strange and unique species.
Here are some photos of just a few.
Whoops! Those aren't strange and unique species...or are they?
That's Paul, our naturalist and guide, and myself sending postcards at Post Office Bay.
Post Office Bay was used in the 1800's by whalers to stay in touch with folks back home.
They left their letters in a wooden barrel; other sailors who were returning home took the letters with them to deliver.
There was no real postman; there still isn't.
My modern day shipmates and I left postcards too.
It can take months or years or forever for a letter to be delivered.
But my son got his postcard in Connecticut just one week after I left it at Post Office Bay!! Someone had picked it up at Post Office Bay and mailed it when they returned to their home in Connecticut.
The United States Postal Service can't do much better than that!
Sea lions! How I love sea lions!
We went snorkeling nearly every day.
Some of the sea lions thought we were new toys.
One afternoon, two sea lions twirled and swirled around us for nearly an hour.
Galapagos sea lions make very fun swimming buddies!
Marine iguanas come in different colors! They are the only lizards in the world that swim and get their food in the sea.
Boobies and frigates and cormorants. Oh my!
Boobies come in three colors in the Galapagos.
Blue-footed boobies. They are as amazed as we are by their bright blue feet.
Red -footed boobies. Red feet. Blue bill. Who could ask for anything more?
Nazca boobies. Elegant in black and white.
The adult frigate birds have a bright red throat patch, but the juveniles are the cutest.
The flightless cormorant's eyes are a brilliant turquoise.
They have small wings and cannot fly. For hundreds of years
they've had no enemies on the islands, so there's been no need to fly.
Their necks are long, curved, and elegant, but when they jump in the water, they remind me of a bellyflop, but with feet.
Splashing color on the gray rocky slopes is the Sally Lightfoot Crab. Sally was the first animal I saw when I reached the Galapagos.
And last, but definitely not least, the animal the islands were named for - the giant Galapagos tortoise. Galapagos is a Spanish word for "saddle". One kind of tortoise has a shell that looks like a saddle. Thus the name "Galapagos". The tortoise above is dome-shaped, not saddleback.
Ah! The Galapagos! Some things are worth waiting for.
"Just One More Book" is a fun website with a thrice-weekly podcast that promotes literacy and, in their words, great children's books. I was thrilled they chose my book "Roar of a Snore" for their January 11th, 2008 podcast. If you'd like to hear their lively chat, which takes place in their favorite coffee shop, double click the play button (">" ) on the "Listen Now" icon at:
China! What an amazing country. We crossed the International Dateline and arrived in Beijing, the capital of China. We visited Tian'anmen Square, the largest city square in the world, a square where many political and emotional events have happened. From there we walked to the Forbidden City. My favorite part of Beijing was the Great Wall. I was determined to walk to the top. I made it!
From Beijing, we flew to Xi'an, my favorite of the cities we visited. It retains it's old city wall and it's where you find the famous terra cotta Warriors. There are over 8,000 life-size figures of warriors and horses, made to protect what would be the tomb of the Emperor of Qin. They are amazingly beautiful. When I first say them, they took my breath away. Some say the terra cotta warriors are the most exciting archeological find of the 20th century.
Then onto Shanghai, a city with a frenzy to it. We walked the Bund, a waterfront park. Across the famous Shanghai harbor we viewed buildings of all shapes and sizes. The most interesting skyline I've ever seen.
Maui! In September I traveled with a friend to Maui. Many people go to Hawaii to relax, but we wanted to challenge ourselves. We trekked eight miles across lava fields with a Sierra Club group. We swam with sea turtles off Lanai. We drove to the top of Haleakala to experience the beautiful sunsets. I even came home with an idea for a story.
Dogs love the beach too!
Pay attention to the small. The small isn't really small at all.
Many books I see today feel like "sound bites". They skim over the surface, moving quickly, frantically trying to keep the reader's attention. They do not explore the depths. They do not see the beauty of the quiet and the simple.
When I visited Maui in September, I did lots of snorkeling. Believe me. There's a lot beneath the surface. Grace. Wonder. Wisdom. Vision. Surprises.
If you are stuck in the mud in the middle of your story, it's better to take a walk beneath the trees than to read a chapter in another "How to write" book. Stop. Breathe deep. Appreciate. Listen to your surroundings and then the voice inside you. Now go explore the depths of yourself and your story...and write!
I've never been one for attending lots of writing conferences. I always felt my time was better spent staying home and actually writing! But recently friends convinced me there are good reasons to make conferences part of my writing life. One reason is all the new writing friends you make. Another is getting insight into your writing process. You may only come home with one true "gem" per conference, but if that "gem" helps you improve and finish your story, the conference is worth your time and money. If you come home with one true friend, the conference is a gift!
Here are photos taken at the fabulous conferences I attended this summer. Sometimes I'm on the faculty, sometimes I'm a student, but always, I'm learning.
I've been delighted to be on the faculty of David Greenberg's fabulous Oregon Coast Children's Writers Workshop (www.authorsillustrators.com)in 2006 and 2007. I took lots of pictures to share with the faculty in 2006. They bring back wonderful memories, so I'll share them along with 2007's. The 2007 photos are compliments of author Mel Boring, who everyone knows, is definitely NOT boring!
Faculty meeting at Oceanside - 2006
Director David Greenberg, practicing flying!
Everyone loves writing!
Mel Boring, who's definitely NOT boring and his 2007 photos:
Happy faces of OCCWW
Studying the story: myself, Nancy Coffelt, & Agent Susan Cohen
In August I switched hats from faculty member to student and attended The Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop (www.childrenswritersworkshop.com). It's an intimate, insightful workshop of 35 serious and dedicated writers and topnotch faculty. We focused on the craft of writing; this year the focus was subplots and secondary characters.
Agent Andrea Cascardi and Editor Julie Romeis discuss Joni Sensel's wonderful manuscript.
Awesome Author Barbara Shoup guiding us down the writing path.
There's lots of work at PCCWW, but also time for food and fun on the patio.
Andrea Cascardi, Barbara Shoup, moi, Director Nancy Sondel, Julie Romeis
Congratulations Young Writers' of Sonoma County!
I loved being part of the Celebration of the Young Writer at Bernard Eldredge, May 16th, 2007!
You are all amazing Story Magicians!
A big thank you also to Library Magician, Marie Hinton, and all the members of Gateway Reading Council for inviting me to be part of this wonderful celebration. Thanks also for the anthology, filled with the young writers' work. I was awed, astonished, and "blown away".
They say a book should have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Sometimes, I think the beginning is the scariest part.
I've had this blog since May, but I haven't written a word.
How should I begin? What should I say? And how do I post a picture in my blog? I am so non-techie. :-(
But I promised the fabulous young writers of Sonoma County that the first thing on my blog would be congratulations to them. It's later than promised, but as my bio says, I'm a wanderer. But I'm not lost!
Seems I often begin writing through inspiration or prodding by someone I care about, whether my children, my husband, young writers, or my book characters.
So here's the cheer you helped me shout out last May. You inspired me to write this cheer, to name my blog, and finally, to begin it. Here's to Beginnings. Keep writing those stories. You are each a story magician.
I'M A STORY MAGICIAN
I PLAY WITH THE WORDS
I ARRANGE THEM IN STORIES
SO THEY CAN BE HEARD
I'M A STORY MAGICIAN
I IMAGINE NEW WORLDS
I BRING THEM TO LIFE
LIKE SHIMMERING PEARLS
I'M A STORY MAGICIAN
I'M AWAKE! I'M AWARE!
I SIT WITH MY NOTEBOOK
WRITING STORIES TO SHARE