Friday, November 28, 2014

Good news

The other day I had an email from Caren, one of my fellow Muskrats from when I was in Jane's workshop.  For years now she has been working on a non-fiction book about a woman who was a child in Nagasaki when the atomic bomb was dropped.  It is a story that will both break your heart and give you hope that good can be made out of even the worst of tragedies.  For several years I listened to this story, and the story behind the story as its pursuit led Caren down some unexpected paths.

Last month Caren's book was sold to a publisher, to be published in 2016.  I wish I'd been there at Jane's when she was able to share the news, and I can't wait to see it in print.

Many times after Caren read a chapter at Jane's and we discussed it, it came my turn to read.  And more than once I wondered what on earth I was doing.  Compared to a story about a woman who endured one of the most horrific events imaginable, what can a rabbit in a cape offer?  Last fall at the StoryMasters workshop I had a similar moment of crisis.  Caren brought me back to earth.  As we talked about our stories during a break, she reminded me "Carrot is important too."  Critiquing on the fly is not my strength.  I usually need to sit and think about a piece for a while first.  But I hope I've offered Caren at least a fraction of the encouragement she has given me.

A book in print.  How many people who don't write understand the countless hours, the years of toil that go into a book without we the authors knowing if that moment will ever come?  Congratulations, Caren.  If ever a book, if ever an author, deserved this, it is you.  I can't wait to read it in print.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Jacksonville in Pictures

Jacksonville Beach

Beach by bicycle

Some more beach time

The view from our patio.  Palm tree included.

San Marco square

Jacksonville skyline, note the dolphin swimming by

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Settling in

Last week we officially moved into our townhouse in Atlantic Beach!  The day after Labor Day the moving trailer arrived and movers came to unload it all.  Aside from the fact we have WAY too much stuff (and we gave away so much before we left!), it's nice to have our things back.  It was like Christmas for the Little Scoot - all his toys, books, and stuffed animals were finally back!

Moving in: How do we STILL have so much stuff???

So we've spent the last week and a half unpacking, as well as taking care of little details like driver's licenses.  And seeing this morning that Saint Paul woke up to temperatures in the 40s, I have to say, I'm not regretting this relocation.

I leave you with a few photos of our new home:

Fishing pier at Jacksonville Beach
Chasing seagulls on Neptune Beach
And this is what it's all about: sea, sand, sun, and scooters.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We Have a Home!

Just a quick update to say that we have found a place to rent in the Jacksonville area.  It's a townhouse in Atlantic Beach within a few miles of the beach.  We're very excited to move in on the 1st and get settled!
The Coffee Queen and the Little Scoot outside our new front door

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Yesterday my book was rejected.  Earlier this year I sent The Mighty Carrot off to the first round of agents.  Once responded right away and asked to see the entire manuscript, along with a couple of my picture book texts.  And then I waited, and waited, until yesterday I finally had a reply.  It wasn't what I had hoped for.

It was a no.  Or rather, more accurately, it was a "not for me."  As a writer, rejection is part of the game.  I've learned that to a certain extent this is a numbers game.  To get that one yes sometimes takes hearing no a hundred times.  There are rejections, sometimes, that make you wonder what on earth you're doing, why you're fighting this uphill battle in the first place, why you put yourself in the position to be rejected over and over.

And then there are rejections like this one.  It was kind.  It was encouraging.  It said "you're a great writer" and ended with "I'd be happy to consider other work from you in the future."  In brief, this was a rejection that said keep going.

And so today I worked on Carrot again, looking for ways to sharpen it as I regroup for Querying Agents: Round 2.  There will be more rejections.  Probably a lot of them, actually.  I can't control that.  All I can control is making the story better and getting it out there.

It might sound strange, but I appreciate this rejection.  I appreciated the time and thought that went into the decision, and the honesty to say it's not for me, but someone else will feel differently.  In the end, I want an agent that falls in love with Carrot as I have.  And so, I keep going.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

We made it!

Last Saturday we packed up the car and started the drive out of Minnesota.

Why do we have so much stuff???
How strange to cross the border into Wisconsin and not know when we might return.  The drive to Atlanta was uneventful, although we did see a few interesting sights along the way.
I don't know what it is either

We even took a few minutes to stop by Antique Archaeology in Nashville (we love American Pickers!).

At Antique Archaeology in Nashville
On Monday we made it to the Atlanta area to visit friends.  The Little Scoot did awesome in the car, but it was still a relief to be able to get out of the car for a while.

The Little Scoot entertaining himself

But after a few days we decided to press on, spending Friday in Jacksonville to take a look at the beaches and scout out a few possible places to live.

The Coffee Queen: On a beach again at last!
And now we're down in Cocoa Beach, our home for now.  More to come!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This Is It

So, yesterday the moving trailer was packed.  I guess that makes it official: we're headed to Florida!

Why do we have so much stuff???
Thanks to the Coffee Queen's wisdom, we hired the excellent guys of Phil and Ted's Excellent Moving Adventure to back the trailer.  As Coffee Queen pointed out, everyone we know is ten years older than the last time we moved (including us).  I have to admit, I enjoyed sitting on the deck and watching other people do all the heavy lifting (literally).

We're now down to what items we can fit in the car, living in an otherwise empty house.  I remember ten years ago when the house was empty - an emptiness filled with possibilities.  We could do anything with the house that we wanted.  And we did.

This is a different kind of emptiness - the emptiness of goodbye.  This house has been our home for a long time and it's strange to think that very, very soon those years will all be behind us.

Last night I went to Jane's workshop and listened to the stories of my fellow Muskrats for the last time.  Tonight we got together with some good friends for dinner.  More goodbyes.

With Jane and the Muskrats.  That should be a band.

But not forever.  We'll come back to visit, and the people we know will visit us.  I will exchange stories with the Muskrats by email.  Florida, here we come.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Hate Moving

Really, I just don't like it.  Sure, I'm excited about this new phase in our lives, the new adventures in store, taking a leap into the unknown.  When it comes moving even when I'm excited to get to the other side, I don't like the process itself.  Perhaps you can see why:

The chaos of boxes, packing tape, and bubble wrap.  And, of course, anything I need is in the box I just packed.

As the Coffee Queen will tell you, I usually prefer one large task to a dozen small tasks, even if the small tasks together will take less time.  Moving is a hundred small tasks, so, really, not my favorite activity.

I have to remind myself of what's on the other side of this process.  I think about living close to the beach, in a warm climate where I can ride the scooter all year long.  I think about the Coffee Queen, the Little Scoot, and I finding a small beach bungalow someday.  Maybe even being in a neighborhood again where we can walk to most of what we need (one of the things the Coffee Queen and I loved about living in Highland Park after we were first married).  I will miss this house, especially after all the sweat and tears we've put into making it the best home we could, but as the boxes pile up, the walls become bare, I realize something: a house is just one big piece of stuff.  Any house can be a home, and, more importantly, any house can be our home.

Moving day is getting close now.  We made great progress on packing this weekend, so I feel good about being ready for the movers (we decided to splurge on having someone else load the trailer).  Then, once we officially close on the house, it'll be time to load up the car and point it south.  I'll be sad to leave, but I can't wait to see what new adventures God has in store for us.  And I can't wait to be done packing boxes.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A New Adventure

So, once again, I've been remiss in posting for a while.  But in my defense it's because the Coffee Queen and I have been cooking up another of our hair-brained schemes.

We've decided to move to Florida.

When people ask us why, we joke about the weather, of course, and how this last winter finally did us in.  It's true that we've reached a point where we're done with the cold, the snow, and needing a half hour to bundle everyone up just to go to Target.  But there's more to it than that.  We need a new adventure.  I know I've been feeling the nudge for some time to take a leap, to step out into the unknown and trust that God will put some kind of solid ground out to meet us.  Last week we sold the house, our home of almost ten years.  I spent a frantic few days trying to find an affordable moving option and figure out other such details, and one by one they're all clicking into place.

Today I packed the first box.

The hardest part of all this has been telling the people we know.  It tore my heart out to tell everyone at the writer's workshop, a place I couldn't imagine choosing to leave.  There's always a reason to stay, always people left behind when you go, but sometimes you have to let one chapter end in order to start a new one.  I don't know quite what this next one will hold, but the Coffee Queen and I both know it's time to take the next step.

So here's to new horizons, new opportunities, and to whatever else God throws our way.  More posts to come, I promise.

As for the Little Scoot, he's excited to be going back to the beach.  His great-grandfather bought him a shark bucket.  Really, what more could a little boy ask for?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Flood Run

Last Saturday was the spring Flood Run, a motorcycle run along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border that takes place twice a year and benefits Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare where I work.  I did most of the run back in the fall of 2012, but between weather and other events I hadn't really been able to participate since.  Thankfully we had some nice weather on Saturday, if a little nippy to start.

The run starts at the Beach Bar in Lake St. Croix Beach, so I headed there first to buy my wristband and meet up with some of my co-workers.  No sooner do I arrive than this guy comes up to me saying, "We've been looking for you!"

Now, keep in mind this event draws in the hardcore biker crowd.  I mean the Harley-riding, black leather kind of crowd.  Look at the photo on the right.  Does that sound like me?  No, not a bit.

So this guy, Pat, proceeds to explain how he saw me back in 2012.  At first he thought it was a bit, but then he kept seeing me further down the run, and whenever he would tell someone about me I would show up.  So there he is on Saturday telling some other people about this guy from 2012 and who do you think rolls in?  Yep.  Never let it be said I don't have great timing.  Pat had been looking for me since 2012 and was thrilled to finally meet me in person.  A few others (including Brian Zepp, one of the DJs from KQRS) came up as well, so of course we had to grab some photos.

Amy, Brian Z., me, another Brian, Darlis, Becky, and Dr, Atomic

I'd no idea I'd made such an impression.  I really appreciated the warm welcome, and it's always fun to meet some new folks.  And we had a great ride on Saturday.  The weather was in the 40s to start, but it warmed up nicely as the day went on.  By the time I made it down to Winona, the end of the run, the sun was shining and the temperature had reached the 70s.  In 2012 I didn't quite make it all the way to the end, so I determined that this year I would.

Dr. Atomic in Winona, the southern end of the run

And it sounds like I was spotted more than once along the way (scroll down and look for a familiar bike!).  So thanks to everyone at the Flood Run for helping make it a great event, not to mention supporting Gillette's mission.

Heading back north with a brief stop in Maiden Rock, WI

Spring thaw

Recently, while sweeping ice out of the garage, I found this little fellow.  He was, I suppose, caught unawares by the cold months ago.  He still looked beautiful, however, and it didn't seem right that he should be swept out without at least taking a moment.  What the spring thaw reveals.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Toddler with a Camera: Part 2

The Little Scoot got hold of my phone again.
I was instructed to sleep.  He discovered square mode.

Little Scoot also likes playing with the iPhone filters

He thought this was hilarious.  Ruff.

Then he wanted me to stand with my arms crossed.  I'm not sure why.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Toddler with a Camera

Last weekend the Little Scoot got hold of my phone.

As you can see, he had some fun with the camera.

Not my best photo.  A little creepy, actually.

I think he was going for some kind of artsy still life thing here.

This sequence is my favorite.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tell me a story...

"Tell me a story, Daddy."

We'd just visited the Currituck Lighthouse on the Outer Banks of Carolina.  The Little Scoot was in the habit of asking for "pretend stories," by which he meant he wanted me to make one up.  It can be mentally exhausting when he wants several in a row, but I have to say that it's a great exercise for a writer.  Can you make up a story on the spot with a coherent beginning, middle, and end?  Bonus points for incorporating whatever random elements are thrown at you by a three-year-old.

Currituck Lighthouse
(Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

After our visit, naturally, he wanted one about a lighthouse.

"Once there was a lighthouse who lived alone..."

When I finished the story the Coffee Queen urged me to write it down, so when we returned to the hotel, I did.  It didn't come out quite as well on paper as it did in the telling, but at least I captured it while it was fresh.

Fast forward several months.  With "Carrot" and one of my picture books just about ready for submission, I've been fighting with a second picture book I wanted to have ready.  But after banging my head against that story for several weeks, I decided to put it aside and work on the lighthouse story instead so I'd have something ready to read at Jane's workshop.  

After I read it on Tuesday Susan B. said it's the first time I've brought tears to her eyes.  Kristin said she felt like she'd heard a classic story.  To be sure, there are parts of the story that still need work, but I felt that they're more about sharpening what's there, that what's at the heart of the story is connecting.

It's humbling as a writer when you succeed at hitting that type of emotional chord.  I don't know that you can do it by consciously trying, but it's something special when it happens.  After banging my head against CJ's story for a while, it was good to switch gears and work on a story that's cooperating.  Now to polish it up.

And it all began with "Tell me a story."

At the top of the Currituck Lighthouse - it's windy!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sharing the wealth...

One of the best things about discovering a great book is sharing it with others.  When our first niece was born, the Coffee Queen and I decided we were going to be the aunt and uncle who give books.  This year for Christmas the nieces received Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Because of Winn-Dixie.

The other day my sister sent me this photo (only partly staged):
Enjoying their books

Our older niece has been reading longer books like this for a while, but this was the first book of this length the younger one had tackled.  It's a joy to be able to share these stories with them, and there are so many, many more wonderful ones to introduce them to.