field notes (8.1.17)


Pursuing a long-simmering art project – fumbling my way through it – check it out on Instagram. It’s my Tromp Collection series…

Working to “embrace what I do not know as a point of departure to explore the mystery of the world.” – John Muir Laws

Using the prompts: I notice…, I wonder…, It reminds me of…

Pay attention to what you pay attention to.” – Amy Krouse Rosenthal

field notes (7.1.17)

Reading: THE BOLD DRY GARDEN by Johanna Silver (I am utterly in awe of Ruth Bancroft who is the subject of the book. I remember reading an article about her and her xeriscape garden in Martha Stewart Magazine in high school or college and being utterly intrigued. Now, to rediscover her and learn more about her, is a gift.), LOCAL COLOR by Mimi Robinson (so, so, so helpful as I continue on my color-literacy quest), EXPLORERS’ SKETCHBOOKS by Huw Lewis-Jones and Kari Herbert (fascinating and inspiring) and 2016 THE BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE & NATURE WRITING  edited by Amy Stewart

Best description of a person I’ve read in a long time, in this case regarding Dame Janet Maria Vaughan: “down to earth but like air on a mountain.”

Embracing acupuncture and cupping…

Sorting, packing, purging in preparation for an upcoming move across town. I thought this move would be easier than my cross-country move in December, but it hasn’t been. (Maybe, it’s even been harder? Not sure yet.) But moving, whether next door, across town, cross-country, to the other side of the globe, is difficult. Moving is difficult. Moving is difficult. Moving is difficult. But also, refining.

Took an inadvertent break from social media in June and it was lovely. (My smartphone stopped.) Before I dig in again, if/when I dig in again, I  must reflect on the lessons and ideas the time away offered me.


I am submitting.

field notes (6.1.17)

Patti Smith’s HOW DOES IT FEEL in the New Yorker. preach.

That thing where learning about color or fabric or design or cooking or music, or pretty much any other creative discipline, is so much more helpful for my writing efforts than any book or lecture about the craft of writing.

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” – Johnny Cash

Reading: BELOVED by Toni Morrison (finally), YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP by Lee Gutkind, BARBARIAN DAYS: A SURFING LIFE by William Finnegan, LIVING WITH PATTERN by Rebecca Atwood, FULL BLOOM by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp (lesson: so much about Georgia O’Keeffe is myth. I love learning the truth about her.), STRETCH by Scott Soneshein.

I love poetry.

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 (3.1.17)

This article, MO WILLEMS’S FUNNY FAILURES by Rivka Galchen is full of gems. (You’re welcome.)

Pretty sure that fear and failure are just really clever disguises for opportunities. (Note to self: remember this when you are scared and failing!)

Entering the high tide of conference preparation…which means lots of reading, researching, formulating questions, ordering new business cards, and focusing on my purpose. (I love a good conference. Helps me gather myself together a bit.)

Trying a new method to focus & flense my latest writing project. I’m writing a book-about-a-book. Which is maybe just a sneaky way to get myself to write a book proposal without getting all powerpoint- and spreadsheet-crazy. I get to use pictures! Essays! Quotes! Maps!It is fun (and helpful).

Noted: if I want a make a change, it helps not just to think a new idea, but to say that idea aloud. For example, I have a new book idea and like all new ideas, at first this one was shiny and perfect. But once I start working on it, the flaws started to show up. This doesn’t mean I need to stop working. It just means I need to keep working. And as I work, I am carefully saying to myself “This is a good idea.” And when that doesn’t work (which is most of the time) I say it aloud. “This is a good idea” to the empty room or to the full room. And this works. Honestly. It’s as if the idea hears the praise and stands up straighter and tries a bit more earnestly.

Reading: WRITING WITH PICTURES by Uri Shulevitz (it’s been a few years since I read this one. So good.)


Visited the Museum of the Rockies for the first time and, man oh man, I love museums.

It’s March! Which means I survived February, my least favorite month.

Remembering that being uncomfortable is magical. Because it means that I am pushing myself and exploring new territory, taking risks. It’s scary and painful. Trying to remember that in the moment. Trying to get comfortable with discomfort. (This may take a while…)

New archival material arrived for my NF biography and it’s such vital information. Grateful I spent the $25 and got out of my own way. (Sometimes my thriftiness gets in the way of progress.) ahem.

Expanding from simply keeping a nature journal into keeping a visual journal. It’s a format that’s more flexible and fluid. More inclusive. I like it. Fewer rules, more fun.

field notes (12.23.16)

Merry Christmas!

This quote, “Many adults…stall in the information-gathering stage of a project. They keep collecting inspiration and ideas without ever moving forward to the point of making something of their own. Forget about finishing – they can’t start,” from Lori Pickert’s PROJECT-BASED HOMESCHOOLING is kicking me in the butt

I was completely immersed in BARKSKINS by Annie Proulx until I realized, with a jolt, that even though it was brilliant and amazing, I had to stop reading it because I knew that I couldn’t both read this novel and get my writing done. I had to choose. And I choose writing.

Working to re-establish writing times

My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.” – Pat Conroy

field notes (12.16.16)

Note to self: 1. do one thing at a time 2. say it simple

Writing so many thank you notes.

Reading: SOME WRITER! by Melissa Sweet, BLUE LIKE JAZZ by Donald Miller, Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert

Three quotes that are steadying me right now:

Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” – Jack London [Because I am loving, loving, loving my early morning journal writing. This is the bedrock of my writing efforts. The essential effort that holds my writing universe together.]

Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” – Pablo Picasso [Because I am living in a new town, and rather than feeling lonely, I am enjoying the solitude. Pair my recent move with cold, winter weather and the result is delicious.]

The best writing is often done by persons who are snatching time from something else.” – E.B. White [Because I have unrelenting demands on my time, my writing time is snatched from a loooong to-do list.]

field notes (10.21.16)

Fitting in my writing in the spaces between all my other responsibilities. Even though I yearn for large blocks of time to submerge myself in, I am grateful for the time I’m given. (Also, It’s remarkable how much all the little bits and pieces and scraps of time add up.) Steady on, steady on.

Overdue for a conversation with my writing/accountability partner.

Catching up on my sleep! (Don’t laugh!) Being well-rested is a huge part of my creative process. I don’t do anything well if I don’t sleep enough.

Rebounding after learning that I was not awarded a grant I’d set my heart on.  Initially, I tried to distract myself from the disappointment I felt. But then I decided that I’d just allow myself to be sad without trying to fix it. I did other things that helped to soothe me: went to a local art gallery, drank extra peppermint tea, got an adjustment at the chiropractor and did some reading. And I worked to change my negative internal dialogue.

Reading: a story by Willa Cather called OLD MRS. HARRIS and SWALLOWDALE by Arthur Ransome

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 (9.16.16)

RANT: I read one of the worst YA novels I’ve ever encountered this week. The main character was surrounded by loving, intelligent adults who solved 95% of the MC’s problems. I was irritated the entire time I was reading because YA books should be about the struggle of adolescence (of course) but also it must show how the MC acts to save themselves because that’s what adolescence is all about: trying to act adult-ish for the first time. 3-year-olds need adults to fix everything for them. The point of a YA novel is to sort of show that “Hey, you 15-year-old, you’ve got the emotional resources to do more than you think.” The point is not for the MC to run to doting mommy and wise teacher and helpful guidance counselor so that they can fix all your problems for you. I didn’t stop reading because after the first few chapters I started studying how NOT to write YA. As a kicker, in the final scene, the girl kisses the boy and then everything is OK because boys are the solution. When that happened, I threw the book across the room. [No, I’m not going to name the title or the author because that is mean and there is enough mean in the world.] RANT OVER.

And then I read ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven and my hair almost caught  fire this novel is so deeply amazing. Read this book! Niven did not take short cuts, she did not take the easy route. She took the hard, brutal, HONEST route and it was such a beautiful book. This is how you write YA. Read it and learn from it. Brave, brave, heart-filled writing. Well done, Jennifer Niven.

Having a blast writing my next column!

Writing a grant (which seems to be an acceptable form of navel-gazing)