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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My Sweet Lil Fifties Rig, Reborn!

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Hello dearest readers!

 Thank you to everyone who inquires about the health and happiness of my little vintage trailer studio.  A couple years ago she got water damage, poor thing... it was my fault-- I neglected her during a stressful house renovation we were doing.  And then, with new space in our house, I moved my writing studio inside, where it's cooler in summer and warmer in winter, and the desk set-up is more ergonomic for my high-maintenance neck and shoulders. (All the stuff that used to be in the trailer is now inside the studio in my house.)

 

But it pained me to see my sweet little rig sitting out in the driveway abandoned.  So, last year, as a goal for 2014, I wrote that I wanted to get her back in use.  It was quite a process-- everything in the trailer required specialized attention! Last October, I'd serendipitously found April, a vintage trailer specialist, who I wrote about in another post, but she was in high demand, so I had to be patient. 


I found some cool folks at Ace Hardware who were willing to do the unusual re-screening for the door and some windows.  Some more cool folks at Black's Glass custom-made a replacement window for one that was missing.  Some more cool folks at RV Land sealed up all the leaky seams in the aluminum shell and got the brake light wiring in order.  After April repaired the interior wood damage, I repainted the interior (at least the parts that had already been painted-- I left the beautiful birch intact.)


And then my man, Ian, put in new flooring.  He is truly a handy man (he paid his way through college with construction work, tile and linoleum installation work, and "rubber dam bladder" work, but that's another story... oh, and he played with Legos fairly obsessively as a kid, which was a solid foundation for his future handyman endeavors.  We have some of his correspondence with the Lego company, dated 1982, on his office wall, actually.) But I digress! 

So, Ian installed this marmoleum flooring (which is very similar to original, old-fashioned linoleum-- super-soft on your feet, all-natural, made with real linseed oil and natural fibers.) We had scraps left over from our house's kitchen and bathroom flooring-- "relaxing lagoon" is the color's name.  We pieced it together and barely had enough to cover the tiny floor plan, but it worked!  This stuff is notoriously hard to work with, even on straightforward jobs in large spaces in houses.... and Ian was working with this teeny, odd floor plan inside my trailer.  But it turned out incredible!  I love it so much (and Ian so much).


So let's see, then I put some wallpaper swatches on the fridge and pipe (from Spoonflower, which has quirky, artsy, indie designs in wallpaper and fabric).  I sewed some bunting and pillows, and gathered up some old quilts from my grandmother.  I cut curtains from vintage tea towels and tablecloths that I'd collected from flea markets over the years.  I found a couple 1950s and 60s sconce lights on Etsy that we hung on the walls. Ian did some wiring to make them work (and still has a little more wiring to do.) 


 There were already narrow black racking stripe decals on the exterior, but they were peeling off.  We put on a new turquoise stripe on one side, and plan to put one on the other side, too.  I'm going to string those old pink lights on the outside for the holidays and make it look festive. 

 

This side still needs some razzamatazz!

 

 I also have some more decorating things I want to do here and there... which will be an ongoing project.

 

 The trailer's new life is our family's tech-free creative space.  Lil Dude and I read books together on the bed at night, and it is SO INSANELY COZY!  Sometimes we eat family dinners at the trailer table and then for dessert, have marshmallows roasted over the little fire pit in our back yard.  And I'm starting to invite friends over for tea and book-conversing.  (Writer friend Todd Mitchell just came over to my trailer the other day, and we talked about his amazing new work-in-progress.)

We're also going to use it for art projects... we're now on a junk-robot kick, and have just spray-painted 25 Altoid tins (from our stash of, like, 100, in the basement.)  Soon they will be re-birthed as robots (inspired by good wabi-sabi friend Les Sunde, who I wrote about here)... I'll do a post on our robots soon.

And I'm getting ready to go over copy-edits for The Impossible Caravan in here... which is fitting, since English-speakers outside the US usually refer to camper-trailers as "caravans." :-)


Would you like to see some icky before pictures?  Brace yourself!






 If you haven't yet seen pics of the before-before pics, meaning how it looked when it was my full-time writing studio, before the water damage, there's a tour here.  I wrote several of my books in this set-up:  Star in the Forest, The Indigo Notebook, and The Ruby Notebook.  Here's what it used to look like:


I hope you enjoyed seeing these trailer transformations!  In a future post, I'll show you nighttime pics of our bedtime story reading so you can experience the INSANE COZINESS for yourself!  Also, I'm deciding on my sweet lil rig's official name... so once I decide and put the decal on the side, I'll share it with you.

xo,
Laura



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Announcing my next book... THE IMPOSSIBLE CARAVAN!!!

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 photo credit: Charlie Cox of Irish Rose Farm

Hello, dear readers!

I can finally announce the news I've been hinting at for a while now (and which some of you already know via Facebook and Twitter)! Here's the official announcement of my new book deal!!!

Children's: Middle grade
Americas Award-winning author Laura Resau's THE IMPOSSIBLE CARAVAN, in which an indigenous boy and a Romani (Gypsy) girl form a friendship in rural Mexico that spans the rest of their lives and embraces magic, music, and predictions of impossible destinies, to Andrea Davis Pinkney of Scholastic, in a good deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Erin Murphyof Erin Murphy Literary Agency (world).

(Expected Publication Date: Fall 2015.  And note that the title might change!)

You guys, I'm so excited!  This is a new publisher and editor for me, and I've heard incredible things about them both.  I've been working with Andrea on revisions this summer, and I keep pinching myself because she is a dream to work with... this whole experience, in fact, has felt like an abracadabrant dream.

I got the idea for this book about 15 years ago, when I was living in an indigenous region of Oaxaca, Mexico, teaching and doing anthropology research.  I met a 96-year-old healer named Maria Lopez Martinez, lovingly nicknamed "Maria Chiquita," and her daughter, Fidelina.  We immediately hit it off, and after Maria Chiquita gave me a limpia (spiritual cleaning involving chanting, praying, and beating me with bundles of herbs and spitting on me with alcohol), she and her daughter told me I reminded them of the gitana (Gypsy/Romani)  women who used to visit their Mixtec village in the mid-20th century. They launched into enchanting stories about the caravans that would show outdoor movies and tell fortunes and bring joy and excitement to their community.

 I could only find this small-resolution image of the three of us

I ended up becoming good friends with these women, and although Maria Chiquita passed away a year later, I went to her cabo de anno (that double nn is supposed to be an n with a squiggle above it but I can't figure out how to do that in blogger!)  This was a beautiful candlelit gathering a year after her death in which we honored her spirit.

 "Drops of Wax" illustration by Emma Shaw Smith

Maria Chiquita had a big effect on my life, and I ended up weaving her stories about the gitanas into a short story called "Drops of Wax" for Cricket Magazine-- my first big publication.  Fast forward about ten years, after I'd published seven books and was struggling with what I thought would be my next book-- a YA fantasy that my writing friends and I referred to as THE CHOCOLATE BOOK  (or, THAT  #$&*! CHOCOLATE BOOK).  This was the spring of 2013, and man oh man, was this book giving me trouble!  It was super-intricate, jumping around in time and space, leaping from one character's point of view to another... and then there was crazy-complicated fantastical world-building I was getting lost in...


Around that time, I took a trip to Half Moon Bay, California for an author visit and walked along the succulent-covered ocean cliffs.  It had an almost magical effect on me... I started getting vivid glimpses of a new story.... a story that was for younger readers, and involved the Romani (Gypsies) and a Mixtec village... and it felt graceful and fun and soul-soaring to me.  I decided I needed to give my poor brain a break from THE %*&!@ CHOCOLATE BOOK, and this new story was the perfect project.  I jotted down bits of dialogue and scenes and imagery in the little notebook I carry around with me, and started getting really excited about it.  It felt deeply special to me--  after all, the novel had been brewing in my unconscious mind for the past fifteen years.  I'd written that short story, but I'd always had the sense that I wanted to weave some of its basic elements into a full-length novel someday... and the day had finally come!


The book was a pure joy to write... I ended up finishing a solid draft by the fall-- in less than six months, which is really fast for me.  Then, for a few months, I asked some smart and generous writing friends to critique it, and I did a few revisions.  By the winter, my agent was reading it, and then, in the springtime of 2014, Andrea Davis Pinkney made the offer. Then I had to sit on the news all summer long until the contract was signed and the deal officially announced. So... it's been a fruitful and exciting year!



SO many people have helped me with this manuscript... the acknowledgments will be looooong! My friends in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca were enormously helpful, and I feel bowled over with gratitude.  And my writer friend, Ron Cree, contributed awesome real-life stories about some unusual pets he had as a kid-- this helped me with "character development" of the rescued skunk and duck in the book.  (You can read his hilarious stories here and here.)

The abandoned, injured gosling my family and I rescued back in May 2013 was also a big inspiration for the duckling character in the story.  Here you can see photos of Baby Goose Grape (and also read another true, funny waterfowl story.)



My friend Charlie Cox helped with some of the Romani (Gypsy) elements in the story-- he lives on a farm on the outskirts of town, and has Romani vardos (caravans) and Gypsy horses!  Here's a post I did after he invited me out to his farm and graciously showed me his vardos.

 Photo credit: Charlie Cox of the Irish Rose Farm

I've been interested in Romani cultures around the world ever since reading anthropologist Isabel Fonseca's ethnographic book BURY ME STANDING in the mid 1990's.  It made me aware of the misconceptions about the Romani as free-spirited wanderers, and gave me a better understanding of the societal challenges they've faced, historically and current-day. And then, as I did research for my novel, I was fascinated to learn more about the Romani through books, oral histories, and documentaries (the recent movie Papusza was wonderful and moving.)


Researching this book was the first time I used a secret Pinterest board to collect images, and it was really helpful.  Here are a couple images from the board that helped me visualize the Romani girl in my novel.


(Unfortunately, a problem with Pinterest is that it can be hard to find photo credits for images-- I don't know who took these pics, but if you do, let me know, and I'll give credit.)


 I imagine the girl in front resembles my main character-- I love her confident, almost sassy expression!


Okay, I think this post is long enough for now! I have more inspiration/research background to share with you later, though...  some of it involves my vintage Viewmaster and slide collection, actually. ;-)


On that note, I will bid you farewell!  Thank you for coming by and sharing in my happiness... and I hope you're enjoying these first bits of fall.

xo,
Laura


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Delights of New Mexico...

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Hello dear readers!

All summer, I've been meaning to give you a glimpse of my outings... but then I just kept getting busy with more outings.  So here's the first installment-- a smattering of pictures from my road trip with Ian to Taos while my parents stayed back in Fort Collins with Lil Dude and his cousin.

Here we are on the Rio Grande, at Manby (aka Stagecoach) hot springs.  We drove on some bumpy, dusty roads past funky earth-ship houses, parked the car, then hiked to the bottom of the canyon, where we were greeted by several natural pools of steamy water.  Ahhh....


Can you make out the ancient rock art with my name on it?


Interestingly, this wall was supposedly built as a set for the movie Easy Rider.  Now I want to go back and see that movie again...


Guess who took this picture?  Reefka Schneider-- part of a husband-wife poet-illustrator team whose books deal with Mexico border issues!  We randomly encountered Reefka and Steven in the hot springs, and found we had lots in common.  Serendipitous, no?


Desert flowers are so stunning... and then there's that refreshing scent of sage brush...


The area was actually relatively lush-- rain has been generous in the Southwest this year.


Next, we went to Ojo Caliente, more developed hot springs near Taos, but apparently we were sooooo relaxed we forgot to take pictures.

The next day we went to the Ghost Ranch, where artist Georgia O'Keefe sought creative refuge for many years.



Selfie with Ian...


We went on a Ghost Ranch history tour and heard weird stories of betrayal and buried treasure and a murdered brother and large flying babies covered in red hair that haunted the ranch...



Did a wee bit of labyrinth-walking, but dang, it was HOT!


My friend Helena saw this photo and wrote "TOTORO!"  (A wonderful Miyazaki film, Lil Dude's favorite, in which the giant magical-forest-creature flies with an umbrella.)


 
Here is one of my favorite quotes, which I discovered in a tiny, musty, mustard-colored book when I was a teen.  It's from Henry David Thoreau's journal:

"See what a life the gods have given us, set round with pain and pleasure. It is too strange for sorrow; it is too strange for joy.  One while it looks as shallow, though as intricate, as a Cretan labyrinth, and again it is a pathless depth."

My whole life, I've felt this way-- that life alternates between feeling like a labyrinth and a pathless depth.

On that note, I will bid you farewell, dear readers, so that I can go pick up Lil Dude from school.  Oh, and I can finally tell you my exciting new book news within the next few days! Hooray!

xo,
Laura

P.S.  And I have to tell you about this amazing restaurant Ian and I ate at twice for dinner in Taos!  It's called Loveapple, and is a sweet old adobe chapel converted into a farm-to-table restaurant.  Every entree is insanely delicious and garnished with edible flowers!


Chocolate cake...

 
Such a treat to have a luxuriously long, kid-less dinner... twice in one weekend!


And here's a random photo of Ian and me at our friend Les Sunde's magical art-place in Bellvue....  (and here's the article I wrote about his wonder-filled place a couple years ago, if you're curious.)



Thanks for swinging by!

xo,
Laura

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blog Writer Chain Thingie

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Hey guys,

Hope you're having a glorious summer! Wilma the Beagle's summer has been quite relaxing, as you can see...

 
So, I was asked to be part of a Blog Writer Chain Thingie (not the official name), in which the baton was passed from my dear novelist friend (and writers' group member) Laura Pritchett to me, and after answering these questions, I in turn, will pass it along to another writer friend...

If you want to see Laura's interview, you can go here and see it in conversation form with another awesome writer friend, Amy Kathleen Ryan.  Laura Pritchett's latest novel is STARS GO BLUE and it's gorgeous and gritty and moving.  (Note it's marketed for adults, not YA.)  

Here is the blurb I posted about STARS GO BLUE on Goodreads: 

Reading this book was a profound experience that I don't think I'll ever forget. It made me FEEL so DEEPLY. It made me feel BIG things, like life and death and love and sorrow and laughter and landscape... Pritchett has this incredible ability to capture the expansive range of human experience and make readers feel it all, right down to their bones. I was already crying just a few pages in-- but the good kind of crying, the kind that lets you glimpse what matters about being a human on earth. There are hard and gritty elements in this book, like the murder of a loved one and mental deterioration from Alzheimer's... but there is a soaring beauty as well, seen in the poetically spiritual descriptions of snow or trees. And Pritchett somehow manages to weave all this poignancy into a suspenseful and breath-taking plot that kept me glued to the book.

Okay, so as I understand it, for this Blog Writer Chain Thingie, I am supposed to answer these questions about my own writing:

1. What am I currently working on?

I'm revising my upcoming novel with my wonderful new editor... and I hate to be mysterious, but the contract is not quite signed, so I'm not allowed to tell you about it yet.... argh!!!  (I'll just say that it's set in Oaxaca, Mexico and there's magical realism in it, as well as a rescued skunk, goat, and duckling.  It also involves a caravan and outdoor films and lightning and coins and dust.)   Okay, I'm afraid I'll get in trouble if I say anything else, so I'll move on to the next question!)

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I feel passionate about indigenous rights and immigration issues, and I hope this comes through in my novels.  I think these issues need to be approached with a sense of empathy and compassion, and with the understanding that we're all connected on this earth.  I think that my anthropology training comes through in my work-- I know my participant-observation research style has been an essential part of my process.  Oh, and also, I can't resist weaving in sparkling threads of magic and travel and adventure...

3. Why do I write what I write?

Er, see above?  ;-)
 
4. How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?

Let's see, first I find myself jotting down ideas and notes on a possible future story.  This stage often involves my dozens of spiral-bound notebooks, and it might take a few months, or a few years, or a few decades.  At some point, I start writing bits and pieces of the story, sometimes from the beginning, sometimes not.  I don't censor myself, and let it flow out in a stream-of-consciousness way. 

After a few pages, or a few dozen pages, I write a kind of provisional outline, mapping out the character arcs and plots and subplots.  I also take notes on the imagery, symbolism, tone, atmosphere, etc.  Then I write more stream-of-consciousness stuff for a while, and then at some point, I revisit the outline and tweak some things to accommodate all the cool surprises that pop up while I'm doing the actual writing.  I go back and forth like this for months, and sometimes years. 

When I have a pretty good chunk of manuscript, I start revising, looking at elements like character development, pacing, plot, layers of meaning, imagery, language, etc.  I might move between revising what I have, revisiting the outline, and writing new stuff, until finally I have a solid draft. 

I show it to my critique partners and writing group members, and once they give me their feedback, I do more revising.  When it feels right, I pass it along to my agent and if she wants any revisions, I do them.  Then it's on to my editor.  And then there's more revising ahead...



which is where I am now.  I'm at the point where I'm fine-tuning and polishing and fact-checking, working with a spiral bound hard copy.  It's nice because I can just sit on the wee balcony just outside my writing room, get cozy with Wilma, and revise away...



Okay, so I'm not sure yet which writer will be next in this chain, but once I know, I'll update this post with an intro and a link.

Thanks for swinging by, and have fun this summer!

xo,
Laura