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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Enjoying The Nature...

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So, I'm preparing for my Maryland trip, and as often happens right before a book trip, I've found myself in the midst of an  icky cold.  Argh!  I'm hoping it will go away fast-- I have all kinds of cool things planned this week, and I want to have energy for them-- school visits to Dunloggin Middle (where I went!) and Clemente Middle (which I love, too). And then, on Saturday, the Baltimore Book Festival-- can't wait to hang out with readers and authors there... bliss.  Festival details here. And details on the awesome authors on my panel at 5:30 here.

In the interim between my two colds of September (I blame back-to-school germs), Ian and Lil Dude and I went on a beautiful weekend trip.  Lil Dude loves going out to "enjoy the nature", which is exactly what we did in the mountains near Red Feather Lake. Before we set up camp, we swung by the stupa at Shambala Mountain Center-- it's a peaceful and lovely walk along a Tibetan-flag-lined pathway.

Inside the stupa (am I spelling that right? Spell check says no)-- inside the stupa, is a giant golden Buddha-- about 30 feet tall.  It's really sweet to watch Lil Dude "meditating" on the cushion in front of the Buddha.  He can sit still for about 30 seconds, tops... but he claims he feels plenty of love and peace in his heart when he does. :-)

A little place for offerings...

Here's to a golden, light-filled autumn for us all!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I want to go there...

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One question I'm often asked by readers of the Notebooks series is where I want to travel next.  Ahhh... I love these kinds of questions-- they inspire more day-dreaming.  Lately, I've been having fun posting my top destinations on my Pinterest board *Dream Trips*.  Can you guess where each of these is? And do you notice a pattern?

If you guessed southeast Asia, ding ding ding-- you are correct!  From top to bottom: Cambodia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Bali, Bhutan, and Thailand.  Alas, I don't know when these trips will come to pass, but they *will* happen someday, hopefully in the not terribly distant future.  (For more of my dream trips, see my Pinterest page.)

People in some of these countries (like Burma/Myanmar and Cambodia) are still recovering from harsh regimes, and I want to be sensitive to this when I visit... I came across this NY Times article with recommendations on traveling in a socially responsible way in Burma/Myanmar, so that you're supporting the people themselves, and not the dictatorial regime.

On a slightly different note, readers are often curious which countries I've traveled to... here's a quick list for you:  Morocco, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico (lived there), St. John's (Virgin Islands), England, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Holland, Italy, Spain, France (lived there), Canada.

My favorites?  Hard to say, but Oaxaca, Mexico and Provence, France hold special places in my heart since I lived there and formed close friendships that feel like family.



Since my husband started working from home last year, we have glorious travel flexibility, which we have yet to really take advantage of.  One dream I have is to spend a couple months living abroad (with Lil Dude, of course) every year or two, in different countries every year. There are so many great international home exchange/home rental sites online now, which makes it easy-peasy (or, at least, do-able.)  Excuse me while I begin hatching my plans...

Portugal perhaps?  I've always wanted to learn Portuguese, such a beautiful language...

Where do you dream of going next? (If you want ideas, you can go to the *fun and travel* page of my website, with links to my photos and travelogues.)

Happy travels to you, wherever you're headed next (or dreaming to go)!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

My writing group and what we do...

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I'm often asked about my writers' group, so here are some details for you, in case you're one of the curious. (This is partly cut and pasted from my q&a page, and elaborated on a bit.)  So, here we are-- Old Town Writers' Group, in a photo taken as part of the promotion for this year's fabulous Fort Collins Reads program.

From upper left, clockwise: Laura Pritchett, Janet Freeman, Carrie Visintainer, moi, Dana Masden, and Karye Cattrell 

We meet for a couple hours every two weeks at each other's houses. We talk and laugh and eat and drink and update each other on what's been happening lately in our writing lives. We celebrate each other's successes and commiserate with each other over rejections. We tell each other about conferences, workshops, readings, contests, and other things we might be interested in.

For the second half of the meeting, we critique two members' pieces-usually between five and thirty pages per person. (We read it in advance-the members up for critique submit their pieces a week before the meeting via email.) Each member critiques the piece, going around in a circle, starting with the person on the submitter's right.

We always focus on the positive stuff first- specific things we loved about the piece-and then move into specific things that weren't working for us. The overall atmosphere is fun, productive, creative, warm, and uplifting.

I'll add that I started this group with several other writers back in 2003, three years before my first book was published. Members have come and gone for different reasons-- the mix is ever-changing, which keeps things fresh and interesting-- but we've also formed long and strong friendships from being in the group together.  I'm the only one who writes primarily for a young adult market-- the others write fiction and creative non-fiction for adults, both short and book-length.  I really don't think I could have published my books without the help of my writing group-- I've truly needed their feedback and encouragement over the years, and still do.They're a HUGE and WONDERFUL part of my writing life!

If you're not in a writers' group and you want to be, you should join one or form your own. That's usually the first bit of advice I give to aspiring authors.  Being in a writers' group helps you see your own work through new eyes, which is essential if you're serious about publishing.  It's also really important to learn how to handle constructive criticism, and how to use it effectively in your revisions.  It's worlds better to develop this skill with your writing group *before* you start revising with an agent or editor. Okay, good luck! :-)


p.s.  If you're in the Ft Collins area, stay tuned for our annual reading event coming up, tentatively scheduled for the evening of Dec 5, 2012, at Bas Bleu Theater. So excited about this!  More details to come!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tour de Fat!

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I'm so grateful to have a creative job and live in a creative town with creative friends... and days like Tour de Fat remind me of this! The parade (sponsored by New Belgium microbrewery) goes right by our house, and it's 20,000 people strong.  We ride in it every year and every year, I love it more!

The parade goes through Old Town for a mile or two.

It's full of merriment and music, and quite family-friendly.

Happy people abound.

We watched for a while with friends and then jumped in at the end.

Lil Dude in movie star mode... enough pictures, Daddy!

Beeker, hehehe... 

Gnome mob...

A wee bit sweaty under there, I'm guessing...

People hook up all kinds of zany things to their bikes... like couches...

Lil Dude greeting a fellow superhero...

A DJ pulled by bike...

There I am in the striped dress and green hair...

So fun to run into friends all along the way... here's awesome artist friend, Kirsten Savage (also raised in Maryland, thus the crab on her head.)

Hubby Ian attached a toilet seat to his bike and a lampshade to his head.

Thanks for swinging by!  (Maryland friends-- I'm getting excited about my school visits and Baltimore Book Festival panel coming up in a few weeks-- can't wait to see yall!)