field notes (5.1.17)

Happily, I have resumed taking photographs on my DSLR. When I purchased my smartphone last year, my use of my DSLR plummeted: the smartphone camera was just so much more convenient. But, I’ve missed my DSLR. This past month, I’ve slowly worked it back into rotation. It has bought me unexpected joy. Using my DSLR,  I’ve noticed that I am much more careful in setting up my shots, much more aware of capturing special moments. My eyes work differently.

I am working to change my thinking surrounding my DSLR and smartphone camera: My DSLR is for capturing moments and memories of my family and friends. My smartphone camera is for collecting visual ideas and notes.

I attended the Western Washington SCBWI conference in Seattle in early April and I am still sifting my notes, considering the new ideas and connecting with fellow writers and illustrators. Grateful to learn from Patricia Hruby Powell, Melissa Manlove, Kazu Kibuishi, Stephanie Pitts.

Takeaway: Go with your gut.

The world looks so different when we remember we are an energy, not an image.” – Sarah Neuberger

Good composition is merely the strongest way of seeing.” – Edward Weston

Loving the phrase, “drawing words and writing pictures” as I awake and embrace my visual self more and more each day

Watching: GHOSTBUSTERS, LOST IN TRANSLATIONOLIVE KITTERIDGE  (in that order and unintentionally studying Bill Murray over the years. The man is brilliant.)

Reading: THIS BRIDGE WILL NOT BE GRAY by Dave Eggers (I’ve always wondered how to write a book, and now that I’ve read this one, I know), THE DESIGN OF EVERYDAY THINGS by Don Norman, THE PASSION OF DOLSSA by Julie Berry, AS ALWAYS, JULIA: THE LETTERS OF JULIA CHILD AND AVIS DESOTO by Joan Reardon (which made me appreciate my closest female friendships even more), PICTURE THIS: HOW PICTURES WORK by Molly Bang, UNDERSTANDING COMICS by Scott McCloud, BRIGHT DEAD THINGS by Ada Limon (and now I want to read all her books of poems.)

field notes (11.4.16)

Oh November, I love you so!

My latest column: On Rejection

Current sanity-saving habits: not turning my smartphone on until after lunch, then setting it to airplane mode, and finally keeping my FB capped at a daily 10-minutes (kept honest with a timer)

Last week I drove a minivan for 900 miles and I’m embarrassed to admit that it was ah-mazing. So much space! (I usually drive a compact car, so the size difference was enormous)

Spent last week in Montana absorbing the landscape and taking great notes

Kicking of a 4-day Art Camp in which I will make all the things I’ve been wanting to make since forever: map stationery, tiny books, cyanotype prints, a skirt for my daughter, potato prints, paper marbling, I may even manage to sew a patch on the knees of my son’s torn pants

Collapsing into bed each night

Excited about all the changes that are ahead: trying to keep clear on what is the most important and let the rest go

field notes (10.14.16)

attended the IA SCBWI writing conference in Des Moines and was fortified by the time spent with fellow writers and makers

planning a writing marathon with my writing partner this weekend: can’t hardly wait to sink into that big swath of time

drafting a proposal for my next book

finishing up my residency application and hoping for the best

completed a solid draft of my next column

championing the use of an unlined 11×14 sketchpad for corralling ideas and words and scenes – such a great tool for playing on the page and capturing ideas

sorting through all my notes, sending thank you notes and creating a to-do list from last weekend’s conference

reading: CLOTH LULLABY by Amy Novesky

field notes (8.12.16)

What a full week!

My latest essay, BROKEN TOES AND BROKEN PLANS, was published.

I visited Wild Rumpus and discovered some new books and publishers and had long, beautiful conversations with two of the booksellers and it lit up my month. Thank you Wild Rumpus!

Did  an abbreviated version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald in St. Paul walking tour.

Viewed the Seeing Nature exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and it was mind-blowingly good. Overflowing with ideas and beauty and connections. A favorite insight from Claude Monet, “Monet painted what he sensed, not just what he saw.”

Went to the Children’s Literature Research Center at the University of Minnesota to view archives from Marguerite Henry, Wesley Dennis, Richard Scarry, Wanda Ga’g, Lynd Ward (and more) that are a part of the Kerlan Collection. Life-changing. This was on my Life List.

Reading: THE PLAGUE OF DOVES by Louise Erdrich, SHACKLETON’S JOURNEY by William Grill, NATURE ANATOMY by Julia Rothman

Struggling to settle into a project: I’ve got so many ideas that I end up doing a bit of work here and there on each of them. I’m doing a lot of mind-mapping, in my efforts to corral my ideas. Need to settle in and finish something!

My 11 x 14 sketch pad is magical. Its large, unlined format is freeing.

field notes (8.5.16)

My library presentation, 13 LIES YOUR ENGLISH TEACHER TOLD YOU, was a success! People showed up! They participated!

Weighing my options regarding the fall SCBWI conference offerings

Went to Ely, Minn. and visited the North American Bear Center, the International Wolf Center and, oh my heart, my favorite place, Sigurd Olson’s home and writing shack

Enjoyed a two-day, solo, silent retreat and it was delicious: so many insights…I’m sure they will show up in my writing and work moving forward (Lesson: make it a practice to regularly get quiet and take good notes.)

Reconsidering how I can best utilize social media platforms

A reminder: You are more powerful than you realize. You really can make your life into what you want it to be. (N.B. you must know what you want in order to get it)

This article, SARAI WALKER: ‘I STOPPED HOLDING BACK, AND MY WRITING HAD A NEW ENERGY, is good stuff

Reading: GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell. I am sooo close to being finished with this tome. I love it, I hate it, Scarlett O’Hara is wearing me out in the best possible way and I am learning so much about writing and plot and character

And finally, it’s August! I love this sultry, luscious, hot month with all that I am. Enjoy!

field notes (7.15.16)

Took a whirlwind trip to Grand Marais, MN in which I soaked in the art at the Art Festival and mentally spent about $1,000 the first day, ate a whitefish sandwich (for the first time!) at Dockside Fish Market, visited Drury Lane Books, had a beautiful and restorative hike on Artist’s Point (this was the highlight of the trip), met Kristofer at Upstate MN, took so many photographs of Lake Superior, almost sailed the Hjordis (sail was cancelled due to potential for threatening weather…second time this has happened to me), ate and talked with dear friends, ate delicious donuts at World’s Best Donuts and once again tried to do too much in too little time

Oh, one of the potters at the Art Festival spoke with me about his work and how he gathers clay from different places as a way to connect to place in his art. Love that.

Was reminded again and again how good travel is for my soul, and also how good staying home is for my soul as well.

I must try to write more directly.  In SALT TO THE SEA, author Ruta Sepetys writes, “The moon hid behind the clouds, unable to stomach the wretched scene.” And those words are true and true. I would’ve written, “The moon hid behind the clouds, AS IF it were unable to stomach the wretched scene.” Yuck! Right? Those hedging words and phrases lack clarity and confidence. Need to work on this. Must remove all those vague qualifiers from my writing…especially if I’m qualifying from a place of fear. (Also, that book was beautiful.)

Reading: EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert (amen, amen, amen)

curator: the person in charge of a museum, art collection, zoo, etc.

Anger is easier than grief. Blame is easier than real accountability.” – Brene Brown

Naming and owning some new manifestations: here’s to keeping after it!

When I got to New Mexico, that was mine. As soon as I saw it, that was my country. I’d never seen anything like it before, but it fitted me exactly.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Having an accountability partner is such a gift. This week I had to put what was just a hunch into words and it opened up a new world for me. Writing is powerful. Accountability is powerful.

field notes (7.8.16)

My latest essay: DRAGON SLAYING

Reminding myself that craft comes first, always.

So much of my life feels like I’ve got to choose: X or Y, A or B. I am  exhausted by this limited way of thinking and so I’ recommitting myself to what I’m calling The Practice of &. That means I choose X & Y, A & B. Feel free to join me.

You know you live in Minnesota, the land of literary loveliness, when you read BIG BELCHING BOG to your kids on Wednesday, hike out to the Lake Bemidji State Park Bog on Thursday and then take you hubby out there on Friday only to notice that the grand and glorious Phyllis Root is at the bog as well. And so you introduce yourself and stumble with your words and feel as if well, maybe meeting Phyllis Root means something. (Maybe it doesn’t?) But you decide to go with it meaning something because you need it to mean something.

Magical Realism is something I need to pay attention to. It feels closer to the truth.

Reading: I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson, GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith and TORTILLA FLAT by John Steinbeck

Practicing inversions! Which is just a fancy way of saying I’m doing handstands against the wall while my kids watch, amazed.

I am submitting: two essays and 1 picture-book biography manuscript this week!

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” – Jack Kerouac

field notes (5.20.16)

Made a pilgrimage to Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City, Iowa. I gathered a tottering stack of books, headed to a sunny window seat and lost myself in the words and images for two hours before my tummy told me it was time to eat. The entire experience was delightful. (And then I spent too much money!)

Visited the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum and was amazed by this tiny gembox of a museum. I have driven past this museum dozens of times, always eager to stop and explore, but either a deadline to get to our destination or the museum’s limited hours prevented me. Not this time!

Took a basics photography class with Bryan Hansel at North House Folk School this weekend and I finally understand aperture settings, shutter speed, ISO settings and other photographic mysteries. This is so satisfying after years (!!!) of trying to figure all this out and failing. I’m hoping I can get my photographs to more accurately portray what I see.

Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center is a jewel: hike out to the rocky point, face into the wind and breathe. What a place.

Reading: SOMETHING RICH AND STRANGE by Ron Rash.

Digging in deep to prepare the workshop I’m offering at the Bemidji Public Library in July. So excited about this event! More details to come…

field notes (5.13.16)

I visited Parnassus Books! When I was a child living in Tennessee, Davis-Kidd Booksellers was the most magnificent bookstore imaginable. I had never seen or experienced another bookstore like it. Each visit was magical. When they closed, even though I was living in Arizona at the time, I was devastated. Some vital part of my childhood was dead. But then Parnassus came along and picked up the baton. And last week I got to stand inside Parnassus bookstore and bookmobile and rub my hand along the book spines and touch the counter top and it felt as if Parnassus was also magical.

While in Nashville, I had the chance to visit the Parthenon and Athena and also, Katherine Ace’s swooningly beautiful exhibit of her Grimms’ Tales paintings.

My essay, WEATHER OR NOT, was published in the Bemidji Pioneer last week. I hope you like it.

Reconsidering and tinkering with my summer writing schedule….hoping to add a babysitter once a week so that I can make some big progress on my latest writing project.

Overwhelmed at all the notes and ideas that came with attending the WWMW 2016 Conference and the research road trip I took immediately after: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

field notes (5.6.16)

attended the Wild, Wild Midwest SCBWI Conference 2016; it was brilliant, inspiring and so much fun

woo hoo! I won the runner-up award for my picture-book biography manuscript in the nonfiction contest at the Wild, Wild Midwest Conference. I am surprised and grateful and take it as a sign to not quit writing just yet. Thank you, judges, for the nod

during my drive to Chicago to attend the conference, I listened to ECHO by Pam Munoz Ryan and it was brilliant. I lost track of time as I listened. You can read it too, of course, but then you miss the excellent harmonica playing

enjoying a solo road trip through Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Iowa and Minnesota. Ladies, solo adventure is the answer

visited Parnassus and enjoyed speaking to the booksellers about classic and contemporary Southern writers. Left with a stack of books and a list of more titles. Reading SOMETHING RICH AND STRANGE by Ron Rash to begin

reading MY FRIEND FLICKA by Mary O’Hara: this novel is a comfort object for my soul and perfect to restore peace to my sometimes anxious heart when I am away from home

reconnected with a dear, dear friend after a 20-year absence. Grateful does not even begin to describe how I feel about having this woman back in my life

feeling grateful, also, for my writing buddies Annette and Rose

loving sweet tea, being called darlin’, blooming magnolia trees, having doors held open for me, eating fried okra, talking from my soul with my dearest friends, walking barefoot

realizing that the only way to get braver is to do things that are profoundly scary