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September 6, 2017

Two of my books are much on my mind these days. It is "Applesauce Weather" here, with our apple tree offering its bounty. We try to keep up with drying and freezing the apples, and making applesauce and apple butter. These apples aren't beautiful to look at--we need to peel them and cut around the worms--but I remember a neighbor once saying, "If the worms won't eat 'em, they ain't worth eatin'." My favorite apple dish this year has been apple crisp with coconut and black walnuts added to the topping. Here's Betty Crocker's recipe.

The other story I think about as the days grow cooler and the leaves begin to turn is SALT: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War. The story takes place at this time of year, and it still breaks my heart to think of the people who had preserved and put up food for their winter, only to have it destroyed by invading armies.

I pick apples and hope for peace.

 
 

July 28, 2017

I've been glad to see that reviews of WHEN MY SISTER STARTED KISSING have been positive and appreciative. As I wrote this book, I thought about the young people I know and it struck me that most of them are really nice people. I know, of course, that "mean girls" exist, and that boys can be aggressive to girls and to each other, but I wondered if I could write a book without that kind of people.

I wrote an entire draft where there was a lot of drama having to do with people mis-treating each other, and I asked myself how much of it was necessary. In re-writing the story, whenever I came to a decision about how the characters would behave in a conflict, if I found myself tempted to include meanness or aggression, I asked, "what if this didn't happen?" Could there be drama and a compelling story without it?

It was interesting to see how the book evolved--I think the characters are realistic, not too good to be true, but still thoughtful and considerate--just like most of the readers who meet them, now that the book is out in the world.

 
 

March 28, 2017

It's going to look like all I do is travel around the world. Not true, but this year, I have been on two big trips. The one to Germany in December, and then, a few weeks ago, to Myanmar for our second trip with a Sister Cities group. This time was a student exchange between IPFW, a University in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I live, and Mawlamyine University in Mon State, Myanmar. There is a large community of people from Myanmar (Burma) in Fort Wayne, and it is wonderful to learn more about the country they came from.

We were able to visit schools, monasteries, homes, pagodas, and markets, in addition to some of the spectacular sites that Myanmar is famous for.

Our hosts at Mawlamyine University gave us a beautiful house to live in for the two weeks we were there, and they, along with others in the community, fed us, drove us, and introduced us to many wonderful new friends. Altogether unforgettable.

As we did last year, we exchanged books, filling suitcases with books donated by our library to children there, and returning with books donated to us by a high school we visited, as well as some we bought, so that parents from Burma who use the library in Fort Wayne wil have access to books in their language, or bilingual books, to share with their children.

I know my knowledge of the country and culture are still very superficial, but this small taste has made me want to return again.

 
 

December 30, 2017

December has been a month I will remember forever.

I was invited to Freiburg, Germany, to be present as a stage version of CROSSING STONES was performed at the Pädagogische Hochschule (a teachers college). It was a small cast, with most cast members performing two or more parts, as well as playing instruments in the musical interludes and scene-transitions, a beautiful production. The play was in English (part of the English department there) and I loved hearing the soft German accents of the actors as they spoke the lines I had written.

It was especially moving to me because the book raises so many questions about war, and the necessity for soldiers to think of the people they are fighting as "Enemy." In World War I, of course, the enemy was Germany, and through the thoughtful and skillful portrayals of 1917 Americans by German actors, these same questions were raised to German audiences, both adult and school-age. I wondered how the teenage audiences would respond, and was pleased to participate in the good conversations that followed each performance.

I also had many good conversations with new German friends about literature and politics in the United States and Europe. 2016 has been an intense year, politically, and we are all keeping our eyes on the currents that affect the world--people and planet.

Chad (my husband) came to Germany for part of the time I was there, and together we enjoyed hiking in the Black Forest (a light-filled place we could get to in a short train ride from Freiburg); visiting museums in Germany and Colmar, France; shopping at the Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas Markets) in many towns and cities; and practicing our German with people who nearly always spoke better English than we did German. Towards the end of the trip, I swam in warm water through cold air in a spa in Bad Homburg (the word "Bad" means "Bath" and in cities with that as part of their name, you are likely to find these wonderful, relaxing spas.

There's more to say, and pictures to post, but this is enough for now.

 
 

May 17, 2016

I haven't yet written about my trip to Myanmar (Burma) in February. We (my husband and I) went with a delegation from our city, Fort Wayne, Indiana, for the purpose of formalizing a "Friendship City" agreement with the city of Mawlamyine, in Mon State, Myanmar. This is the first step towards a Sister Cities designation.

The formalities were impressive--we met with the U.S. ambassador, the governor of Mon State, and many other dignitaries as well as representatives of NGO's, and artists, writers, academics, and monks. We considered ways of establishing connections between people in different parts of our communities.

We visited Mawlamyine University, a high school, a hospital, a marketplace, a home, a factory. We travelled along a busy highway between Yangon and Mawlamyine, and drove on a small city street to an artist's studio. We learned a little bit of history, a little bit of language and culture--just enough to make us want to return to see and learn more.

We didn't have time to visit the beautiful places we heard and read about in other parts of the country, but others in our group were able to do that after we left, and they shared their pictures and stories with us.

What an interesting, exciting, and beautiful country.

 
 

November 16, 2015

Wow--it's been a long time since I added anything to this part of my website. Not because nothing has been happening, but because I'm working hard on a novel. The novel will be finished in a few weeks, and I'm hoping to re-vamp my website, and perhaps start a blog or in some other way, do more to support our community of readers and writers.

But for now, a quick update on my forthcoming books:

Coming soon:

Spring, 2016: Among a Thousand Fireflies, a collaboration with Rick Lieder.

Fall, 2016: Applesauce Weather, a novel-in-poems for young (ages 7-10 or so) readers, with illustrations by Amy June Bates. I've seen the sketches and love them, and the cover.

Spring, 2017:

WAKE UP: Another collaboration with Rick Lieder about new life appearing each spring.

And also Spring, 2017, this book I'm working on now:

WHEN ABI STARTED KISSING, a novel-in-poems for middle grades (ages 10-14 or so).

Back to work!

 
 

April 19, 2015

I just scrolled down to see when I first mentioned bluebirds, and I think it was four years ago that they first explored the bluebird house we set out for them. Today we have a nest and new babies! Four of them, plus one blue egg that probably won't hatch. This is fun! I expect them to fledge in about a week. I wonder if I will see that.

 
 

December 20, 2014

Yesterday I received my advance author copy of SWEEP UP THE SUN (publication date is March 10, 2015), and I read it from cover to cover as a new reader might. Of course I know it by heart after working on it for so long--adjusting the poem and photographs to read smoothly both verbally and visually--but the experience of reading it as a book still took me by surprise. Rick (the photographer) works with Rachel (the art director at Candlewick) on the layout of the pages, and while I have some input into the process, I had not realized that the images are arranged so that they alternate between wings up and wings down, or open and closed. This gives a sensation of flight as you read the book, turning the pages from beginning to end. It was a delightful discovery for me.

I've been learning Tai Chi this past year or so, and this sensation of opening and closing while moving forward reminds me of some of the Tai Chi moves and sequences. I wonder if learning Tai Chi has afffected the way I write poetry.

I haven't written much here in the past few months (it's been a busy fall!). But I am grateful for each of my readers and others who visit my website. I wish you a joyful holiday season and everything good in 2015.

 
 

September 30, 2014

Gregory Thiesen found my poem "Shore" in Sam Hamill's 2003 anthology, "Poets Against the War" and wrote this music. (The poem can also be found in my book, "as if a dry wind".) There's a recording of it on this website if you want to listen. It sounds just like the birds looked.

 
 

September 29, 2014

Speaking to students at South High School in Worcester, Massachusetts last week, I realized that I wrote KEESHA'S HOUSE before many of them were born. I was happy to realize that it is holding up through time.

This weekend I will be speaking about HIDDEN to middle school students in Kansas who voted for it to win the William Allen White Award. I'm looking forward to meeting the students and others in Kansas, and to seeing the home of William Allen White. I love the fact that so many states have awards for children's literature and often name them in honor of those who helped bring children and books together.

I'm looking forward to the publication of SWEEP UP THE SUN, a new collaboration with Rick Lieder, with a publication date of March 10, 2015. This one features birds--in flight and at rest--with a poem celebrating birds and speaking to all the ways we go out into the world to explore.

 
 

June 18, 2014

Frances Foster--June 3, 1931-June 9, 2014

I have been so lucky to work with one of the best editors in children's books for more than ten years. Frances Foster edited seven of my books and taught me, in a completely respectful and gentle way, how to take a book from the seed of an idea to a pull-it-off-the-shelf actual book.

She would ask questions in such a way that I would step back and realize I was on the wrong track ("Helen, do you think you are making this harder than it needs to be, by having a dog musher in a wheelchair for most of the book?" she asked about an early version of Diamond Willow, and I saw that the accident should happen to Roxy, not Willow.) She rarely suggested a way to fix things, just said "I know you can do this." And even when things were very hard, I always found, eventually, that she was right, I could.

I will be forever grateful that Frances and I had an opportunity to work together and become friends. She is a treasure in my life.

 
 

May 8, 2014

I've been unable to add to my website for a few months, just got that repaired (helpful online support from GoDaddy--thanks Ryan!).

It was a long winter and now a suddenly beautiful spring. Lilacs about to bloom here, bluebirds in residence (though probably not nesting, as the sparrows seem to have moved into the bluebird house again, after 8 weeks of bluebird ownership).

In book news:

I'm very excited to learn that HIDDEN was selected by 6th-8th graders in Kansas as the winner of the William Allen White Award. 37,000 readers voted in their awards this year, and I'm looking forward to meeting some of them next October.

SALT was short-listed for the Jane Addams Award, which means a lot to me even though it didn't make it to the final three (winner and two honor books). It's a huge honor just to know it was carefully considered in that great company. I love that award.

A new collaboration with Rick Lieder, SWEEP UP THE SUN, with gorgeous photographs of birds in flight (and a few settled on branches) is ready to go to press, and will be published next March.

A novel-in-poems for young readers (grades 2-4 or so) is finished, ready to be illustrated and designed, and will be published (probably) Fall, 2016. That title is APPLESAUCE WEATHER.

It's nice to check in again.

 
 

December 22, 2013

Light is returning.

We celebrate family and friendship, and honor all those whose lives have led to ours, have touched ours, or will follow ours.

What a joy to be alive in this moment, in this particular place.

With their permission, I'd like to share two emails I've received recently from friends who have known me for a long time and understand my life work.

From Jeff Gundy, poet and essayist, friend for 20 years:

"I just finished SALT, and thought I’d write you a few words while it’s fresh in my mind. I liked it very much, troubling as the story is, and am struck again by just how much this mode you’ve found suits your gifts and your commitments. You’ve figured out how to tell stories, long stories, in a series of short poems, and how to engage younger readers without patronizing them, and how to deal with serious, painful issues and realities, and how to embed your narratives in authentic history and traditions from a whole range of cultures and places . . . and, maybe most important, how to write out of your beliefs about peace and justice without sounding preachy or judgmental in the least. I’m just really struck by how much skill, craft, patience, and moral energy it takes to write a book like this one, and how once again you’ve pulled it off."

And from Don Mager, a graduate student poetry teacher at Syracuse University when I was an undergraduate, and friend ever since:

"Hello Helen,

Are you besieged by a blizzard? Has ice pulled down your trees and wires?

SALT did not wait long at the top of my stack of books to read. What a marvel! You have mastered the verse novel for adolescents and do it better than anyone I know. What amazing achievements each of your books is.

As a kid and teenager I was an insatiable reader. In my small Iowa farm town of 2000, the children's room of the library was pretty skimpy. But on the wall of middle-school age books, there were some gems that I read over and over. Biographies of Luther Burbank, Marie Currie and Akhnaten. A wonderful illustrated book called Tim The Dog of the Mountains about an Afghan boy with his herd of mountain goats and his Afghan hound named Tim. He would build a fire and sleep on the mountain while his dog kept the goats from straying. The pictures of the rugged barren mountains and Tim with long silk mane in the wind set my imagination on fire. I named my boyhood dog Tim and for years dreamed of getting an Afghan hound someday. As for poetry, there was scant to none. I read illustrated eidtions of Evangeline and Whittier's Snowbound. Something strong must have resonated because I can still picture those books. But that was about it for poetry.

Had SALT come in into my hands at, say, age 10 or even 13, I can only imagine how quickly I would have taken it into my heart. There is so much about it that my boyhood imagination would have gobbled up. I was not much of a fantasy reader and I'm sure Harry Potter would have bored me. The Lord of the Rings might have spellbound me. In general, I liked stories about "real " people, but a touch of historical, cultural or geographical strangeness fascinated. A. E. Rolvag's Giants In The Earth about Norwegian homesteaders in Minnesota was my favorite book for several years.

Here are some of the things that an 11 year old Don Mager would have loved in SALT. The story unfolds swiftly and with astonishing suspense for as little actual action as there is. Each couple poems is a leap forward in the narrative. So many gaps to fill. So much good work for a young imagination. I love your mastery of what to tell and what to leave untold. 11 year old Don would have loved it too. The brushed in strokes of another language and the vast cultural difference another language forces one to confront. 11 year old Don would have worked to get his pronunciation of those magical words down pat. Some he would have memorized and repeated in his mind while riding his bike delivering papers on his early morning paper route. The map and the historical events would have sent him to the encyclopedia, and as with wikipedia's version of the Battle of Fort Wayne, he would have been offended by the "American" bias. He would have loved walking along in his mind through the woods, hearing birds, watching for deer and losing all track of time. And most powerfully, he would have been fully engrossed in the mystery, suspense and sadness of friendship with its attempts at connection and mutual understanding and failures of communication and painful misunderstandings. The actual language barrier between Anikwa and James is such an amazing metaphor for all the fraught communication issues of adolescence.

The boyhood Don would have had this book on his favorite book list for quite awhile. I am sure that there must be thousands of similar boys now who will do the same if they are fortunate to have Salt come into their hands by some inexplicable serendipity.

Fondly

The 71 year old Don"

Don't I have good friends?

To each of you, coming to this little corner of the internet universe, by whatever search has brought you here, I send love and gratitude, and wish you well in everything you do. May you find vitality in your work and play, and may your friends and family love you more than you think you deserve, which I hope is a lot!

 
 

I've just returned from a week in Massachusetts, where I spent three days at South High School in Worcester, for the fifth year in a row--great school, wonderful principal, (Maureen Binienda) and excellent teachers and students.

Then I spent the weekend in Boston, where I received a "Literary Lights for Children" award from the Associates of the Boston Public Library.

Here is what I said when I received the award, after being introduced by Kajayla Boyd, a poised and beautiful 8th grader from Beacon Academy:

Literary Lights for Children

September 29, 2013, Boston Public Library

Thank you, Kajayla, for that thoughtful and beautiful introduction, and thanks to everyone who has made this day possible.

When Kajayla wrote to me, her questions were interesting and perceptive, and I found myself thinking about them even after I’d answered her.

For example: “Does your past,” she asked, “strongly influence your current writing? If so how?”

That question led me back to my earliest influences, the voices of my parents.

My father was a great story-teller. I was one of ten children, and almost every day, usually late afternoon while my mother was making supper, my father would sit in his big green chair and we would all clamber onto his lap or lean against the arms and back of his chair, or maybe peek around a doorway so he didn’t know we were listening—because if you were in the room, he would name a character after you, and often those character descriptions were not exactly flattering.

I might be hiding behind the door, and he would catch a glimpse of an elbow sticking out, and I would hear, “Then who do you suppose came clomping down the road? A big old clumsy mule named…HELEN.” I would come running out from behind the door, and punch my dad in the arm, and then—I’d settle in with my sisters to listen to the rest of the story. I acted mad, but here’s a secret—it meant something to me to know that my father knew I was there, knew I was listening. I was included.

And my mother—when she was not busy in the kitchen, and sometimes when she was—had a head full of poems that she often recited for us. We might be walking to the mailbox together, our shadows dancing along in front of us, and she would begin, “I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me, and what can be the use of him is more than I can see.” It wasn’t long before we could say the entire poem along with her.

I look back at those years, and I see the roots of many aspects of my writing: the rhythms and rhymes of language as my mother spoke out loud the poems she knew by heart, the intricacies of plot as the stories rolled out of my father’s mind, a new story every day.

Now I trust that stories will come to me, and I write them down with special attention to the sound and shape of the language.

I know everyone does not grow up in the same kind of home I did. I imagine my young readers from their different homes and backgrounds, and I drop little hints to let them know I see them, even if they are hiding behind the door, so to speak. There’s no need to hide, I suggest, come on in. You are included.

This afternoon, I love to look out and see that so many of you have come in close. I catch a glimpse of stories and poems that are beginning in you now, and look forward with great joy to seeing how they will find their full expression.

 
 

September 9, 2013

This is the time of year that the story in SALT took place, and as I've been spending a lot of time preserving the apples from our tree--a huge harvest this year--I've been thinking a lot about what it must have meant for people to have worked so hard to put up a winter's supply of food, only to see it destroyed.

Here is an interesting blog entry describing another aspect of this time of year in the Myaamia community,

"the Grass-burning moon."

 
 

July 5, 2013

Summer is a time for new life, and each year I learn to see more and more of it as it emerges all around me.

A few weeks ago, I was clipping dill from my garden into a salad, and I saw a "bug"--because I'd seen a swallowtail laying eggs on queen anne's lace a few years ago, and observed it through all the stages from egg to butterfly, I recognized this little bug as a tiny swallowtail caterpillar. I fed it more dill, and some fennel and queen anne's lace, and the day before yesterday, it emergd from its chrysalis as a beautiful black swallowtail!

I've put up a wren house for several years now, and this year, for the first time, a pair of wrens made a nest in it and raised babies. I never saw them, but I often heard them peeping inside the birdhouse. I've enjoyed watching the parents' frequent comings and goings, and then today, noting the absence of such activity (and no peeping), I looked inside and saw an empty nest. Those birds know what they're doing--how to keep attention away from the fledglings as they first learn to fly!

 
 

May 17, 2013

These past three months have been very full--new friends and old, and new book ideas simmering as I talk with readers about earlier books.

SALT is almost ready--I've seen the jacket and will have a "hold-in-my-hands" copy in about two weeks. Then, the best part, when it finds its way into the hands of readers.

My travels have taken me to quite a variety of places:

After my trip to China, I went to Sault Ste. Marie, where I spoke to college students and adult writers, as well as children. It was cold and snowy, as were Boston and Alaska, my next two trips!

Alaska was as I remember it from when I lived there in the 80's, only, if anything, moreso. I spoke at the Alaska Library Association Conference in Valdez, and it snowed heavily the entire time we were there. Moving so many people, into, out of, and around a small town as so much snow accumulated was both exciting and a little overwhelming.

While in Alaska, I saw many of my friends from the years I taught in Telida, and the warmth and friendship was still there, immediate, even after so many years. Wonderful to meet the children and babies of the children I taught back then, and wonderful to see those former students grown into adults I love.

I had a good trip to Minnesota, visiting my sister, seeing other relatives, and speaking at an elementary school in Chanhassen about DIAMOND WILLOW. I also met with the book group of an old friend, who had figured out that another member of the book group knew my family and grew up playing with my sisters and cousins. So many connections.

Then:a few days in New York City, meeting with editors and others who support me in my writing, followed by a long weekend at the Highlights Foundation,, where I co-taught a workshop on novels-in-poems with Kelly Bingham.

Winding up this year's travel, I had a lovely week in Texas, where I saw my son and sister and niece, and spoke at six middle schools, mostly about HIDDEN. Happily, I was home in time to enjoy our flowering crabapple, in all it's Maytime glory. I love the smell of apple blossoms, and they bloom at the same time as lilacs, which I also love.

What I learned from making 8 out-of-town trips in five months is--not to do this again. Wonderful as each trip was, altogether, it was too much travel. I'm enjoying being home now, with the summer stretching ahead of me, and the luxury of deciding which of several writing projects I will bring from the back burner(s) to the front.

One last note: we have wrens nesting in one birdhouse and bluebirds exploring another (though the house sparrows are not as welcoming of the bluebirds as we are. We'll see.)

 
 

February 7, 2013

In January, I spent two weeks visiting my son, Glen, who is teaching English in Huzhou, China, this year. What an amazing experience.

The first week, we stayed in Huzhou, and Glen showed me the places he loves there. We walked a lot: climbed Ren Huang Shan (Humane Emporor Mountain), strolled in several beautiful parks, dodged traffic in the city center, and went up the steep stairs of Feiying Pagoda. We ate in little street-side cafes, in lovely restaurants, and at a Chinese Pizza Hut.

I learned to count to 100 in Chinese, though I never quite mastered the tones, which are important, so I'm not really sure what words I was saying when I thought I was saying numbers! Glen, having been there for five months, was able to understand quite a lot, and make himself understood in many situations. (I learned that gestures are not necessarily the same in all languages, so you have to be a little careful with that.)

And I learned that when you are in a country where you don't speak the language, it's important to have written directions, in the local language, not in English, to give to a taxi driver (wouldn't you think I would have figured that out long ago, and not needed to learn it now?). Though knowing how to say numbers was very helpful in such situations. And, as I find everywhere I've ever been, people are willing to help, and interested in communicating, and it can be fun to converse across languages.

A few things I loved right away:

People in many different public places, drawing, singing, dancing, teaching and learning different kinds of movement. All ages and body shapes. Dance seemed to be for good health and pleasure, not for performance, a sense of community about it. (We also saw several dance performances, but I loved the feeling of joy and dailiness of this.)

Tea--the way it is served in glass glasses sometimes, the green tea leaves floating on the top at first, then slowly sinking. Like drinking a garden. And it comes with a thermos of hot water that seems to say, "You can stay here and enjoy your tea in this beautiful place for as long as you like. Just keep pouring hot water over the tea leaves and your tea will last forever." Not quite forever, of course, but a good long while.

Chinese breakfasts--rice porridge with pickles; hard boiled eggs with soy sauce in the water (shells cracked just enough to let the soy sauce flavor the egg); dumplings with a variety of fillings.

Noodle shops--quick, delicious, inexpensive, meals.

After a few days in Huzhou, we were in Hangzhou for one day, most of which we spent walking around West Lake, famous for Longjing "Dragon Well" tea. Beautiful lake, and as Glen remarked, "Everyone here seems happy." Sort of a vacation place--that might have been part of it, but also a certain joy in the landscape that people were part of, or became part of as they (we) walked there.

Then we went to Guilin for four days. An elegant city, surrounded by beautiful karst mountains. The city planning has been such that no tall buildings obstruct the view of the mountains, so everywhere you look, there is beauty. We went on a river boat ride at night, through the city, and another, longer one during the day, out into the countryside. Each time, we saw cormorant fishermen, reminding me of "The Story of Ping."

We also went on a road trip out into the mountains, up into a village surrounded by terraced rice fields. It was not growing season, or harvest season, so the fields were brown, but still, I found them beautiful. We had lunch in the village, delicious and plentiful, again accompanied by green tea.

I've only touched on this whole experience. I did not experience any jet lag at all when I arrived in China (a 13 hour time difference), but since I've been home, I've found that I get sleepy at odd times, intense and sudden. And now I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open...

oh one other thing--the day I returned home, the bluebirds were here, as if to welcome me. Travel is good, and home is wonderful.

 
 

December 27, 2012

Today I'm looking out at a beautiful new snowfall, and at the birds that find their way to the feeders in such weather--this morning there were finches, sparrows, starlings, a woodpecker, a nuthatch, a pair of cardinals and a tufted titmouse, all within ten or fifteen minutes of each other.

And just a week ago, we were walking through the ruins of ancient Mayan communities, admiring the craftsmanship of walls, temples, and large (ten-foot tall) masks, as well as that of contemporary artists (woodwork, embroidery, painting, and musical instruments).

We were in Mexico and Belize around the time that the end of the Mayan calendar had been predicted, though when we learned more about it, we realized the 5,125-year calendar would have turned to a new cycle on August 11, last summer, rather than the December 21 date so many people were talking about.

The possibilities of such travel in the world we share are amazing and wonderful, though I am increasingly aware that my enjoyment of such travel is a big part of my contribution to climate change, and I am thinking about what adjustments I need to make.

In book news: STEP GENTLY OUT is stepping beautifully into the world, with many people of all ages expressing appreciation for it. Rick and I have recently learned that our next collaboration, SWEEP UP THE SUN (a book about birds), will be published by Candlewick in 2014. It is exciting to see it take shape.

The new paperback edition of KEESHA'S HOUSE is now on the shelves, and response to the new cover appears to be enthusiastic.

And I now have Advance Readers' Copies of SALT. I love this moment when I first see a book "on the page" and can imagine the finished book. It will be here before we know it!

Thank you for finding your way to my website. I wish you all the best for 2013!

 
 

October 4, 2012

It is a beautiful time of year. As I write this, the late afternoon light is filtering through just-turning leaves onto a palette of reds, oranges, and yellows (butterfly bush, zinnias, tomatoes, and a bright red miniature eggplant that looks more enticing than it tastes). I'm treasuring these last few days before the temperature falls below 32 degrees--the colors will fade, the tomatoes will freeze, and the goldfinches will lose their remaining gold feathers. Already, the monarchs have all begun their journey to Mexico, and I believe we have seen the last of the hummingbirds this year. I wonder if the sandhill cranes have started coming back yet--I'm listening for their distinctive call.

Twice, in recent weeks, I've received letters from young readers who have almost finished HIDDEN and want me to write a sequel. I remember that feeling, when I was a child, caught up in a story, wanting to know how it ended and wanting it to go on forever, all at the same time. I'm touched at the thought that a child would stop reading and take the time to write to me, to let me know about that feeling.

Wherever you are, whatever the season, I hope you are taking time to see and hear whatever is around you.

 
 

August 9, 2011

This week I've been watching the olympics in the evenings, and going over the copyedited manuscript of SALT during the daytime hours. I'm glad to be a writer, rather than an athlete. We can take our time, and make our mistakes, without crowds of people watching us; there is teamwork involved (editors, book designers, and all the people who get our books into the hands of readers), and there are deadlines to meet; there is sometimes competition, but it's different from athletic competition. I like the fact that the success of our work never comes down to how well we do in one specific moment. We can take weeks, months, even years, to think about something until it seems right.

This new book, SALT, is like that. I've been thinking about the story for over twenty years, trying to find a way to tell it in a way that children can understand and appreciate. Set in 1812, it explores a friendship between two 12-year-olds, a Miami (Native American) boy named Anikwa, and James, the son of a trader.

SALT: A story of Friendship in a Time of War, will be published next summer by Frances Foster Books/FSG/MacMillan. I'll post the cover soon.

 
 

June 5, 2012

Garden planted, space for vegetables and flowers.

Time for reading AND writing this summer.

 
 

May 31, 2012

As news of Peter Sieruta's sudden passing has spread across the internet, I have been struck by how much pure love is being shared--love for Peter, love for children's books, and, in a way that Peter would have found delightful and perhaps surprising, love for one another.

Several people who never met Peter in person, upon learning that I had the privilege of meeting him at a recent book event, have asked me what he looked like. Others have commented on the fact that there are no photographs of him online (or maybe there is one from his early childhood), and asked his brother if he might post a picture. It's an interesting question for his family to answer. I can see good arguments on either side.

As for what Peter might have wanted, I'll share a brief moment: As he was leaving the bookstore that evening, I asked if he'd like to be in a picture (with me and several other authors). His response was an emphatic NO!!! (I heard it as, "I got myself here. I had a good time. Don't push your luck.") We laughed a bit about the intensity of his reply, and I teased him just a little, and wondered later if I shouldn't have--it was clearly personal to him.

He described himself as very shy, but there's something about that word that isn't quite right. There was a deep and conscious choice, partly based on the difficulty (pain) he experienced in social interactions, but more to it than that--a positive side of keeping a social distance, protecting something of great value, and knowing you are doing that.

It's clear that his qualities of intelligence, kindness, humor, caring, and thoughtfulness came through loud and clear in all his online interactions. We all have a lot to learn from him about expressing questions about a book, or anything else, with a dose of humility so genuine that the questions generate further conversation, and are not hurtful.

I will say a bit about what he looks like: someone you might pass in the aisles of a bookstore or sit beside on an airplane and never know how enriching a conversation with him might be. Brown hair, average height, above average weight, and--I think but I'm not sure--brown eyes. I'm not sure because it's not the color I recall. It's the dazzle of knowledge behind them, the quick decisions about how much of that knowledge to share, the delight in learning something new.

I wonder if he knew how beloved he was (and is). I think he probably did, but maybe he didn't want us to know he knew.

Because then we might have been scared of him, and that would not have served him, or us, well.

 
 

May 30, 2012

It has been a long time since I've written anything here--busy spring with lots of travel, launching STEP GENTLY OUT, and finishing a novel, SALT: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War--to be published by Frances Foster Books/ FSG next spring, probably May, maybe a little earlier. I love this feeling of anticipation when my part in the book is mostly finished, and now I get to wait to see what the jacket artist and book designer will do to bring it to life.

Time to plant vegetables and flowers and slow down a bit for a month or so.

 
 

February 3, 2012

Bluebirds, again!

On January 1, a cold snowy day, we had three bluebirds at our feeders, the first time I'd seen bluebirds since last spring when a pair of them apparently lost their argument over nesting sites to the house sparrows.

Since then, we've seen them three more times (two one time, three another, and yesterday, four of them!). It makes me so happy, whenever I see them. I'll put the nest boxes out again, hoping they may prevail this year.

 
 

December 24, 2011

When I was a child, this was the day that my dad would take each of us (ten kids in all) to the "five and ten cent store" so that we could buy gifts for one another. The gifts would be small and, as I look back on them, maybe a little amusing: a box of bandaids, a set of barrettes, a box of paperclips... We loved receiving these things; when you live in a house with so many other people, there's something very cool about having a hundred paperclips of your very own.

What impresses me now, is that my father was able to keep track of all the gifts--he remembered who had purchased what for whom, so that we didn't receive ten barrettes and no crayons, for example.

Wrapping the gifts was highly secretive and fun, and opening them took hours. We opened gifts on Christmas Eve, one at at time. Our parents usually bought us clothes, our grandmother made pajamas for each of us, one of our aunts gave us a box of Fanny Farmer French Mints (to this day, that is the taste of Christmas Eve for me).

Whoever you are, reading this, I thank you for visiting my website, and hope you have good memories of your own childhood. I love the connections we make through our reading and writing.

 
 

November 5, 2011

A week ago I received an award. This is what I wrote to try to share the special flavor of that evening:

At my table at the awards banquet, I’m surrounded by friends and family, and we relax in the light of the white floating candle on our table. The conversation is gentle, easy, quietly celebratory.

When my name is called, I step up onto the stage to receive the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, one of three that will be given on this elegant evening. I look out at the banquet hall, holding in my hand a small paper with my notes of people to thank, a few remarks on what this means to me, maybe a small joke.

But the podium is dark. I can’t read my notes, and I am dazzled, as the lights of all the candles shine up at me from the round white tables in this room which is not usually a banquet hall, it is a library--the old, beautifully modernized, Central Indianapolis Library. The moment has such deep presence: the presence of these three hundred people who have come together out of a shared love of books, who write books and read them and care deeply about them. And there’s the surrounding presence of the books on the library shelves, and all the people who have written and read them, all the librarians who have helped make connections between writers and readers.

I am surprised to discover that I am completely at ease among all these friends, known and unknown. I have no anxiety about saying the wrong thing, or forgetting to say the right thing. I find words to accept the recognition this award represents, and my words are in turn accepted: I belong in this world. And I am aware that this feeling, unusual though it may be, fully belongs to each of us, in every moment.

Later, as if in confirmation of this glimpse of truth, a young woman approaches me and asks me to sign one of my children’s books. She tells me that she was on the selection committee for this award, and that she’s from Winamac, a small rural town that I remember from a long-ago poets-in-the-schools residency. Might this woman, I wonder, have been a teacher or a librarian and have met me at that time?

No, she tells me, “I was in elementary school, and you came to my classroom. I have a signed copy of your first book of poetry.”

So many circles and spirals. Such deep and ongoing connection.

 
 

September 18, 2011

I haven't seen very many monarchs this summer--no eggs or caterpillars or chrysalises. I'm not sure why--others have noticed the same thing.

I had a funny idea this week--funny only because it's so obvious and took me so long to see it. Whenever I do a school or library visit that focusses on MONARCH AND MILKWEED, I take milkweed seeds and encourage the children (and adults) to plant milkweed for monarchs. It's been a somewhat laborious and messy process: 1. let the milkweed pods dry and split open

2. take the seeds out

3. shake out as much of the fluff as possible (but there's always some left)

4. put the seeds in little plastic bags, trying to guess the right number of seeds for individual children or for a classroom.

So--the other day I was picking milkweed pods, intending to gather the seeds for school children, and I LOOKED at what I held in my hand: a perfect container for milkweed seeds, nicely zipped up and probably just about the right number for a class of 25-30 kids to have ten or so seeds each. The pod itself is the perfect container!

So now, before they burst and send their seeds flying all around my neighborhood (I suspect my neighbors think I've sent enough milkweed seeds their way over the past ten or fifteen years)--I will put each pod in a plastic bag, left open so the pod can dry, but not exposed to wind, so the seeds will stay contained until I give it to a teacher or child.

And school custodians everywhere will thank me when they don't have to vacuum up milkweed fluff in the wake of my visit.

Though I know I won't be able to resist blowing just a few seeds out into the audience, always such a fun moment, when the kids scramble for the flying seeds as they parachute down.

 
 

July 20, 2011

What a good month this is turning out to be.

I've just learned that I'll be awarded the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, in the regional category, at an awards dinner and ceremony on October 29th. In addition to the award I'll receive, there is an award to the library of my choice--what a wonderful way to celebrate libraries, books, authors, and readers!

We've just had another wonderful week of Miami daycamp. I learned some of the Myaamia language along with the children, who are delightful. This year, a highlight of the week was a bus trip to important Miami sites such as the Forks of the Wabash and Seven Pillars.

Not too many monarchs so far this summer. I've seen a few, but haven't found any eggs on the milkweed.

 
 

June 14, 2011

The highlight of May was a two-week trip to Denmark! My grandfather came to America from Denmark in 1889, and I was able to meet his brother's grandchildren, and see the places I have heard about for so many years.

I loved the light, and the colors of many of the buildings--warm yellows and oranges.

We saw the place where Danish fishermen smuggled Jewish Danes to Sweden during World War II, as Lois Lowry depicts in Number the Stars.

I met Bodil Bredsdorff, a Danish children's author I love.

We visited the Hans Christian Andersen birthplace and museum.

We saw ancient stone circles and burial mounds, beautiful churches, wild and beautiful seacoasts, and carefully tended gardens.

Denmark is a beautiful country!

 
 

June 13, 2011

A baltimore oriole came to our backyard today. They seem to show up about once a year, often during the time the cherries are ripe. I suppose the birds can be forgiven for thinking the two cherry trees are giant birdfeeders. They always save a few for us.

 
 

May 10, 2011

First shoots of milkweed ready to welcome the monarchs.

Crabapple tree in full, beautiful, bloom.

A single purple flower I planted and forgot about popping out to surprise me.

Lilacs offering their "almost out" fragrance.

White Crown Sparrows at the feeders--probably migrating through, they've been here for about ten days.

DIAMOND WILLOW out in paperback today (published by Square Fish).

And: HIDDEN here at last, finding its readers.

Happy May 10th!

 
 

March 10, 2011

Allen County Public Library has done a very nice

10-minute interview about my writing process, how I work with editors, etc. At the end, I read the first few pages of HIDDEN.

They hope this will be the first in a series of author interviews that they can have in the library and put online.

 
 

March 1, 2011

A bluebird--a pair of them, in fact--has been visiting our back yard this past week or so. I've been putting out food they like, and a birdbath, and a bluebird house. Unfortunately the sparrows think the bluebird house is a sparrow house, and they are territorial, so I don't have high hopes for the bluebirds to nest in our birdhouse. But maybe they'll keep coming here for food.

I saw a downy woodpecker yesterday too--a female, no red on her head. Such a sweet little bird, very bright black and white.

 
 

January 19, 2011

Very exciting news! Ivy Tech Community College is sponsoring a Community Reads event based on Keesha's House which includes scholarships up to $1000 for creative responses to Keesha's House.

On March 31, Lisa Tsetse and Ketu Oladuwa will join me in presenting an arts workshop at Ivy Tech from 2-4 pm, followed by a reading and discussion from 7-9 that evening.

For more information, go to the Ivy Tech website: Community Read--Keesha's House

 
 

December 20, 2010

A poem I wrote recently--

Where Grass is Pressed

When you’ve heard a door

creaking shut

and the wind is dying down

and the road is longer

than it should be, longer

than you thought it would be

and no one can tell you

how much farther on

the window in the welcome place

will be

look for a circle

where grass is pressed

into the ground, where it hasn’t

sprung back up yet--look

for the places where the animals

have slept. Rest is recent,

rest is possible again.

Close your eyes and nestle

into sleep, into love.

Helen Frost

 
 

December 1, 2010

Remembering Johnny

Melvin John NIkolai, 1974-2010

I will never forget Johnny Nikolai. He was seven years old when I first moved to Telida, Alaska. I was his teacher from 1981-1984, and he taught me more than I taught him.

Johnny’s ears were sharp and he always knew exactly what he was hearing; he could tell how far away an airplane was, and interpret the sound of sticks breaking in the woods. He could read the movement of the river and the stories told by animal tracks, which meant he could catch more fish and snare more rabbits than most people three times his age.

Reading words on a page didn’t come quite so easily to him, and after I tried all the things I had learned in my education courses, I finally thought to ask Johnny if he knew why reading was hard for him. He looked at me with a surprised expression and said, “When I need to know how to read, I’ll learn.” (I talked this over with his mother and she said, “I’ll stop telling him what’s in the soup cans.”)

Likewise in math, Johnny was often two or three steps ahead of me. Once we were doing a math exercise to learn patterns. Using stamp pads and rolls of adding machine tape, the idea was to stamp repeating patterns such as: dinosaur, dinosaur, fox; dinosaur, dinosaur, fox; dinosaur, dinosaur, fox. I looked at Johnny’s tape and thought he was just having fun stamping randomly--his tape was about fifteen feet long, and I could see no pattern. Until he pointed it out to me--something like: dinosaur, fox, daisy, shoe, sun, moon, star; dinosaur, dinosaur, fox, fox, daisy, daisy, shoe, shoe, sun, sun, moon, moon, star, star; dinosaur, dinosaur, dinosaur, fox, fox, fox...etc. See if you can figure it out faster than I did.

Johnny could be full of mischief, but he could also be kind-hearted and thoughtful, patient and attentive. I feel lucky to have known him.

Helen Frost

 
 

September 30, 2010

I've raised a black swallowtail butterfly from an egg I saw a butterfly lay on queen anne's lace in my backyard on September 20, and today it made its first flight!

 
 

September 27th, 2010

Candlewick will publish Step Gently Out, a picture book collaboration with Rick Lieder. His nature photographs are as magnificent as his other artwork. The book will come out Spring, 2012.

 
 

August 13, 2010

Hidden will be a spring 2011 title on Frances Foster's list (FSG/MacMillan). I can't wait to see what the cover will be.

Monarchs are emerging from chrysalises every day. That first flight is always so beautiful.

Pears are ripening. Lots of them.

 
 

July 23, 2010

(Celebrating 27 years of a joyful marriage to Chad.)

The past two weeks, I've participated in two camps for Miami children:

--an overnight camp at the Indiana Dunes, and

--a day camp on the IPFW campus (here in Fort Wayne, Indiana). The children were learning the myaamia language and culture from enthusiastic and knowledgeable teachers.

You can see photos of the day camp here.

Neewe (thank you) to everyone involved.

And this week, I'm enjoying the monarchs as they rest on the flowers and milkweed I've planted for them. At the moment, I'm caring for 4 monarch eggs, two small caterpillars, and seven chrysalises. In about a week, the monarchs will emerge.

 
 

June 2, 2010

My book has changed shape several times, and is now finished, except for final polishing. It will come out next spring, in time for summer reading (part of it is set in a summer camp).

I'm taking a few deep breaths before embarking on the journey to discover my next book.

Off for a family reunion on the Oregon coast tomorrow!

 
 

March 2, 2010

Yesterday a Carolina Wren and an Eastern Bluebird visited our backyard, and today a small white bird I don't recognize. It was turning its head almost like an owl would, but it's way too small to be an owl.

Other visitors are: cardinals, grackles, blue jays, finches, woodpeckers, nuthatches, sparrows, and then the chipmunks and squirrels scampering everywhere. A squirrel must have run off with one of the feeders--a metal stick that goes through a cylinder of suet and seeds, and hooks onto the feeder. I can't find it anywhere.

 
 

February 8, 2010

Friday afternoon, I received a wonderful phone call letting me know that Crossing Stones is an honor book for the 2010 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award.

Congratulations to Alice Schertle, who won the award, and Betsy Franco and Mary Ann Hoberman, whose books are also honored. Such wonderful company!

Sylvia Vardell writes about it on her blog: Poetry for Children.

Huge thanks to:

* Lee Bennett Hopkins

* this year's committee

* the Pennsylvania Center for the Book.

 
 

Krumkake

Here's a Christmas recipe I make almost every December. It comes to me from my father's mother, and probably came with her and her family from Norway in the mid-1800's. I have an electric Krumkake iron, which makes two cookies at a time, in about 40 seconds (once the iron is hot).

1 cup sugar

1 cup butter

2 eggs, well-beaten

1 cup milk

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

Cream sugar and shortening.

Add eggs.

Add flour/baking powder and milk a little at a time, alternating wet and dry ingredients.

Put about a tablespoon of batter in the center of the iron and bake until golden brown (less than a minute for each pair).

Roll quickly over a dowel or wooden cone-shape.

 
 

October 8, 2009

I've been working hard to finish a book, and now that it's almost finished, I'm finding it hard to let go of the story and characters. There will be lots more interaction with these two girls as the book goes through the editing process, and the process of book design--but for a few more days here, the story is "mine" in a way it won't be once I send it off to my editor next week.

It's wonderful to see Crossing Stones coming through the doorway, entering the world--a full-fledged book now, finding its readers, its place in our conversation, our community of readers and writers.

 
 

September 4, 2009

We had a wonderful conference in Fort Wayne last weekend about "Community-Based Language Revival." So many of the languages that were once spoken on the land we now call America are no longer spoken by very many people. The speakers at the conference acknowledged the deep sadness of this, while challenging the notion that the death of such languages is inevitable.

We had speakers from Canada, Ohio, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Indiana.

A few notes:

Daryl Baldwin told us about the Myaamia Project at Miami University, and about "family immersion" as a way of bringing back a language that has been called extinct. He and his family speak Miami in their home, and his children have grown up knowing how to converse in Miami.

"Language" is not a noun in all languages.

"I want to demonstrate a strength of purpose when I use this language I was given."

Donald Perrot, one of 6 fluent speakers of Potawatomi, out of 34,000 tribal members--he spoke the language exclusively until he was 6 years old; he's 70 now.

Other speakers: Chad Thompson, Gretta Yoder Owen, Scott Shoemaker, and Paul Stone. (I wish I'd taken more and better notes, as I don't want to mis-quote anyone, so I'm not being specific about what each speaker said. (I also spoke about the use of English and Dinak'i in Telida, Alaska, 1981-1884.)

 
 

July 28, 2009

I was asked to write a short piece of advice for someone who is writing, or wants to try writing, a verse-novel. I thought I'd share my response here:

I usually call my books novels-in-poems rather than verse-novels.

It's important to learn the craft of poetry, and become adept at using all the tools in the poetry toolbox.

I love the music of language, the intricacies of the way sound patterns and patterns of meaning intersect and weave together, the way language brings it's own history into a story so that the story becomes multi-layered--the story of the narrative and the story of how the narrative takes shape within language.

It's not easy, but if it's done well, the effort can--in the most glorious moments of writing and reading--become unfelt and invisible. That happens when you go so deeply into the story-poem that language is doing all the heavy lifting. Language can do that for you because it has evolved through eons of specificity. Our job is to trust it.

 
 

February 21, 2008

Something that made me really happy this month:

the announcement of the 2009 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award for Diamond Willow. There were so many great books of poetry for children published in 2008; the knowledge that this particular committee read all of them and selected my book fills me with gratitude. And I always find that deep gratitude is a firm standing place from which to launch new work. So, thank you, to:

* Lee Bennett Hopkins

* this year's committee

* the Pennsylvania Center for the Book.

Congratulations to Margarita Engle and Patricia McKissack whose books are also honored.

 
 

January 18, 2009

We're having an unusually cold winter in northeast Indiana this year. Just before Christmas, we had an ice-storm that left about 80,000 homes without power for 4 or 5 days, and now we're having sub-zero temperatures, so everyone is scrambling to keep pipes from freezing, or to thaw them out once they have frozen.

It makes me remember my years in Alaska, when this kind of weather was the norm for five or six months each winter. In Fairbanks, the schools had indoor recess if the temperature was colder than 20 below zero, but when it was warmer than that, everyone just bundled up in snow-suits and Sorel boots and fur hats and went outside to play.

In Telida, the small community where I lived and taught school for three years, we didn't worry about freezing pipes because we didn't have running water in our homes. We didn't have electricity, so power outages were not a problem. But we did have to be sure to keep a good woodpile, a mix of spruce to get a fire going, and birch to keep it burning hot. When the temperature was 40-60 below, I'd get up several times each night to stoke the fire, and still my water bucket would be frozen in the morning.

I'm a little nostalgic for the coziness of those winter nights, the northern lights sweeping the sky, moose tracks in the deep snow, and everyone helping each other get through the winter.

 
 

November 25, 2008

I'm remembering my mother, Jean Timmons Frost, who lived from March 30, 1917 to November 16, 2008. She raised ten children and had 24 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, most of whom gathered in Los Alamos, New Mexico last weekend to honor and appreciate her.

Think of the time-span of her life. She recalled the first time she saw an airplane--at a demonstration by the Wright brothers in Minneapolis when she was a child. She was born before women could vote, and lived through WWI, the depression, and most of WWII before she began the 40 years of her life that would be primarily, but never exclusively, devoted to her children.

She and my father had a loving, fun, supportive marriage, and I feel exceptionally lucky to be a part of the family they brought into the world.

 
 

October 29, 2008

And now I can show you the final jacket art for Crossing Stones. Isn't it beautiful? The story takes place in 1917, in rural Michigan. The book will be out next fall, Frances Foster Books, FSG.

 
 

October 3, 2008

My next book, Crossing Stones, is beginning to seem real. The initial sketch of a possible jacket design gives a sense of the time (1917) and the form (water flowing over stones).

 
 

September 28, 2008

Crock Pot Apple Butter

“Marlene’s recipe” from Diane Schmucker

Core and slice apples.

Heap in crock pot.

Add:

2-2 1/2 cups sugar

2 Tbsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp cloves

Put lid on crock pot.

Cook on low for 12 hours.

Take lid off crock pot.

Cook on high for 2 hours.

Remove from crock pot and put in blender.

Store in freezer.

 
 

September 17, 2008

Where did summer go?

The bluejay family entertained us for weeks, and is not so much in evidence now.

Our pear tree had it's most prolific year yet.

Crossing Stones has been copyedited, and I've seen the sketches for the cover design, by Richard Tuschman--just beautiful! It makes the book seem so real. It will be out in about a year.

And this weekend is the Johnny Appleseed Festival here in Fort Wayne, one of my favorite weekends of the year--old-time music, food cooked over wood fires, great craft booths, fresh apple cider, warm caramel corn, and a crowd that always seems both large and intimate.

 
 

June 22, 2008

We were in Scotland for two weeks, mostly on the Isle of Barra. I was able to renew old friendships and share the places I love with Chad, as well as discovering new places and meeting new people. Especially delightful were the young people we met in Castlebay School.

I noticed much more Gaelic being spoken than I remember from my last visit, four years ago. I didn't learn much myself, but I think if I spent a year or so there, I could learn it.

Since we've been home, we've been picking cherries from our two trees. The birds got more than we did--it was fun to see the birds, and this evening I saw a family of fledgling blue jays on the branches of one of the trees (now empty of cherries). I wonder where the nest is.

 
 

May 18, 2008

Sometimes I see ducks wandering around the streets in our neighborhood, but I've never seen one in our yard. We aren't close enough to water, and there aren't any of the hidden places that ducks like. The other day, I found an egg nestled into the mulch around the lamppost in our front yard. I think it's a gift left by a duck who knows it can't nest here, but would if it could.

 
 

March 28, 2008

I'm enjoying the response to both my new books.

Crocuses are appearing, woodpeckers are back, robins are everywhere, goldfinches are turning gold again--I'm pretty sure all this is a good indication that spring is close!

I heard Marianne Boruch read from her new book, Grace, Fallen From, on Monday evening--a beautiful reading, and, as always with Marianne's work, a gorgeous book inside and out. If you're looking for a way to celebrate National Poetry Month this April, this book would be a great place to start.

 
 

November 29, 2007

Each year at this time, the sandhill cranes gather at Jasper Pulaski Wildlife Reserve, about 2 1/2 hours from Fort Wayne, and we meet friends there to watch the birds. Last Saturday, at dusk, we watched about 14,000 sandhill cranes fly in and land in the field. Some of them circled very close to us on their way in--the sound they make is beautiful, haunting. One of our friends saw a whooping crane. As we were leaving, a full orange moon rose over the horizon.

 
 

November 20, 2007

I've been in New York and Philadelphia for ten days. A few highlights:

The Leo House, on 23rd Street in NYC--a quiet place to stay, with a great breakfast buffet every morning. Started over 100 years ago as a safe, welcoming place for German immigrants, and still offering that welcome to travelers.

Poets House workshop at Mulberry Street library with a great group of teens who wrote and shared some really good poems.

Learning my way around the trains and busses in NYC, and getting a sense of what's "walking distance" there.

One last visit to FSG at their iconic adddress of 19 Union Square West, before their move to 18th street. Lunch with my wonderful editor/publisher, Frances Foster.

A first visit to Simon and Schuster to meet the people behind Monarch and Milkweed.

NCTE / ALAN -- four days of meeting old friends and making new friends.

Poetry teaching panel with Ingrid Wendt and Terry Hermsen.

Poetry Blast with 12 children's poets

Notable books roundtable

ALAN panel about novels-in-poems with Allan Wolf, moderated by Lynne Alvine.

So many great books for young people, and so many intelligent people reading them, somehow keeping up wi

 
Above: Eastern bluebird

Below--reconstructed traditional village in Denmark