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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gratitude and Goals

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Hi guys,

So it's that time of year, when I take stock of the goals I made twelve months ago, and feel grateful for the ones I managed to complete.

 

I usually set about five creative goals for myself every January, and this year, I'm happy to report that I made four out of five happen.  One of them was to get my trailer back in use... which she finally is (and all decked out for the holidays.)  She's been providing us with nice doses of coziness and delight this fall...


Another goal was to get a contract for The Impossible Caravan... and although this goal was somewhat out of my control (after all, I could just do the best I could and then leave it to my agent and the mysterious workings of the universe), it has been realized!  And I'll tell you, the book has a new name now, which my editor, Andrea Davis Pinkney, and I just decided on last week.  I don't think I can divulge the name yet, since it's not completely official... but stay tuned!

  
Another goal was to sew at least three things with the sewing machine we bought last Christmas.  I sewed a bunch of pillows and bunting for my trailer, along with some easy napkins and Valentine's Day cards for Lil Dude's 25 classmates (which was actually the easiest project of all).


Another goal was to finish a solid draft of a YA speculative fiction manuscript that I'm really excited about.  I finished it up this summer and got some great feedback from writer friends.  I'm planning on delving into a revision soon.


Another goal was to translate Star in the Forest into Spanish... which my dear friend, Gloria Garcia Diaz, and I just finished!  We're just going over the copy-edits now.  This was a labor of love, and I'm so thankful to Gloria for doing such a gorgeous job with it.  We don't have a Spanish language publisher for it yet... but that's a goal for early next year!


And my last goal was to revise what my friends and I lovingly refer to as The %&$!#$ Chocolate Book.  I've been working on it for years now-- it's YA and very intricate and sprawling and just a doozy of a manuscript to deal with...  but I do believe that some incarnation of this book will see the light of day at some point in the future.

As for my goals for this year, I just talked about them with my writing group... and I'll let you know next December which ones I got done!

If you embark on creative adventures of any sort, I encourage you to choose a few straightforward goals for the year, preferably ones that are within your power to achieve.  I print mine out in large font and tape them to my computer monitor so they're staring me in the face every day.  I can't ignore them! And at any given time, I'm forced to assess whether my current activity is bringing me closer to my goals or not...

Thank you, dear reader, for swinging by and for reading my books and making my life that much happier!

May your holidays be wonder-filled and magical...

xo,
Laura

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