field notes (1.29.16)

The Hubbs Children’s Literature Conference is fast-approaching. You going?

This article, CREATIVE COURAGE FOR YOUNG HEARTS: 15 EMBOLDENING PICTURE BOOKS CELEBRATING THE LIVES OF GREAT ARTISTS, WRITERS, AND SCIENTISTS from is worth the read if you are at all interested in picture-book biographies.

Reading SCENE AND STRUCTURE by Jack Bickham and COLLECTED STORIES by Willa Cather

Fargo! Took a day trip to see the Plains Art Museum, visit the Hjemkomst Center, eat a delicious lunch at The Blue Goose Cafe. The best part of the trip was spotting a barred owl atop a tall tree, scanning the snow-covered fields for prey. Just. Wow!

Got four hours of uninterrupted writing and thinking at the beautiful Leech Lake Tribal College Library.

field notes (1.22.16)

How have I not heard of this publisher? Enchanted Lion Books

Reading HARRY POTTER & THE SORCERER’S STONE (aloud, for the first time) by J. K. Rowling and SCENE & STRUCTURE by Jack M. Bickham

I am a person whose head is filled – overflowing actually – with ideas, ideas, ideas. This is a lovely thing except for when it’s not, i.e. when too-many ideas distract me from my mission. This week, I titled a sheet of paper, “Great Ideas I Won’t Pursue” and I listed all of my lovely ideas that I can’t/won’t pursue because we only get one life and I need to keep on my path instead of constantly running down rabbit holes. This list is a great way to clear the debris and demolish the obstacles that get in my way from pursuing my path whole-heartedly. It’s such a simple practice, this list-making of things I won’t pursue, but it’s immensely freeing. Try it for yourself?

Registration for the 2016 Iowa Summer Writing Festival has opened.

This quote: “The only way to make good art is to say what it means to be yourself.” (from John Baldessari

I can’t remember how I made it through life without writing in books; demolishing their pages with underlining and marginalia. (Need to think more about this.)

Sent this text to my friend: “Pretty sure that all my desperate attempts to storyboard and figure out the structure of my novel are a result of me being really uncomfortable with Not Knowing. So. I’m just going to try and sort of be OK with being uncomfortable. And just keep writing & wandering around in the dark of this story. That’s my discipline, practice right now. So I’m making vegetable soup instead of making crazy with my writing. Thanks…for everything.”

Completed a writing marathon on Monday with a friend. Wrote from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with brief breaks for meals and an hour of XC skiing in the afternoon. I was afraid I would run out of steam midway through all the writing, but I didn’t. I got so much done just by the mere fact of having uninterrupted time to think and work and let my mind wander. It was amazing & invigorating. (P.S. I was exhausted the next day.)


field notes (1.15.16)


I’ve read CATCHER IN THE RYE too many times to count, though it’s been years since the last time I sank into its pages. You guys, reading it again, felt like coming home. That book will always feel like home. I have such gratitude for literature.

I road tripped to Ely, Minnesota. I love that place. There were treasures around every corner: the beautiful conversation with the man at the coffee shop, the kind ladies at the Brandenburg Gallery (not to mention the stellar, soul-stirring art), the wolves (the wolves!) who frolicked in view at the International Wolf Center the entire time we were there. Piragis; with a great upstairs bookstore with hardcovers 20% off! (I purchased OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW by Kate Messner and THE DOG THAT NINO DIDN’T HAVE by Edward van de Vendel) Oh, and Wintergreen.

The American Library Association announced its award winners this week. The list is worth studying, and then reading.

field notes (1.8.16)

You guys, I wrote another column, MAKE YOUR OWN HEAT. This time, I write about how to love winter a little more, a little better. I like this one. I’ve struggled with winter for so many years, and this essay feels like a peace offering. I hope you enjoy it.

Sometimes, writing (which is how I share my heart and my ideas) feels like I’m running around with no pants on. It can leave me feeling vulnerable, exposed.

The daily handwritten poem project is coming along well. I still have to put it on my to-do list, but I had a small breakthrough regarding this practice: I can copy the same poem for as many days in a row as I want. There is no Poetry Police. This is MY practice. So, if a poem is really speaking to me, I’m going to stick with it. I’m all about copying THE JOURNEY by Mary Oliver and MANIFESTO: THE MAD FARMER LIBERATION FRONT by Wendell Berry. And I’m not searching, searching, searching for poems; they are coming to me. Also, if a poem is really lengthy, I am allowed to take a few days to copy it. Because I said so.

This quote: “You either suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Pick a side.” Yessss! This is  me right now.

I’m committed to capital-Q Quality. Which means I’m saying no to opportunities so that I can be a good person, not just a “successful” (read: frenetically busy) writer. I’m counting on the quantity adding up on its own.

Have I mentioned how much I love writing? I do. I love writing. I love the ride. Grateful to have a column and readers who respond to and like my words. There are so many things to read in the world, I’m honored when someone chooses my words. Thank you.

field notes (1.1.16)

Happy Sweet ’16!

I took a creative faceplant earlier this week after receiving smart, spot-on feedback about a manuscript I’ve been working on for more than two years. I have so much more work to do.  That isn’t such a bad thing, but it was difficult to hear when I thought that I was almost finished. Ah, well. Back to work.

Reading THUNDER & LIGHTNING by Lauren Redniss, MOOMIN: THE DELUXE ANNIVERSARY EDITION by Tove Jansson (I am new to the Moomins), MEDITATIONS by Marcus Aurelius.

Finished THE ART OF MEMOIR by Mary Karr (I will be reading this one again and again), and THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coehlo (fantastic!).

Listening to the song BEST DAY OF MY LIFE by the American Authors after watching an IMAX movie about humpback whales that had whales breaching, rising, flipping, swimming to that song. I listen to it when I bike and run and I feel as free and happy as a humpback, swimming in the cold waters off the coast of Alaska.

Continuing with my practice of hand copying a poem each day. I have to remind myself to do it. It hasn’t become automatic yet. But I think it’s a practice worth fighting for.

Being human; sometimes it’s hard.

Turned in another essay and working on two more. I am loving writing these essays. It feels like breathing.