Back to school always seemed to include a prompt from my English teacher about "What I Did During Summer Vacation." True confession: I have been known to give my own high school students the same assignment.
So here's a photo essay of my summer fun, starting with Zip-lining in Mexico, a huge lesson in letting go. This is something I can use when I send manuscripts off to publishers (or kids off to college!). I'm learning to turn those moments when the world has you dangling in mid-air into What-the-Heck moments and enjoy the ride!
Which brings me to whitewater rafting on the American River in June. (I'm the second blue hat on the right near our trusty river guide.) Another writing lesson: Keep paddling through the rapids and the slows–to get where you want to be. And what a rush when you finish that chapter or scene, or make it through Troublemaker!
Speaking of trouble…4th of July found me INSIDE AN ELEPHANT pushing water balloon "poop" out of the rear end in the annual Mammoth (no pun intended) 4th of July parade. Get this: the mammoth (ie elephant) was so mammoth (ie large) we had to lower the top part to get under the telephone lines as we paraded through Mammoth (ie Mammoth Lakes, CA). Is there a metaphor for writing in this scenario too? Tossing the "poop" was liberating–like trimming the excess "poop" from my manuscript. But enough about that…
On to two wonderful weeks at Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp where I head the Theater Dept. each summer. Second session we had fun with Shakespeare (no that's not an oxymoron) and first session with physical movement and clown noses. (Don't judge a person until you walk a mile in his shoes–or his nose!) AND I took a flying leap on the Slip & Slide for the first time EVER! Talk about TRUST. Makes me think about the times I took a flying leap and sent manuscripts out. And what a thrill to conquer those fears of rejection–or possible bruised bones on the slip & slide : ) I am happy to say I sailed through both.
Next flying leap: dropping our college freshman off at the dorms this August. Wish me luck!
Alaska Gateway Schools rock! I had such a wonderful time at their Young Author Conference!
Did I mention that the school district is twice the size of New Hampshire? Our eager young authors, grades 3-8, came from all over: Dot Lake, Tok, Tanacross, Katie John School in Mentasta Lake, Walter Northway School, and Tetlin. By the end of the conference, all had written sloppy copies (yay!) and final drafts of their own books of original poems. Hopefully I will be able to share some of the poems in my next blog. But let’s back up a bit…
Wednesday: The flight from CA to Fairbanks included two stops, and a seat mate on pain meds (too many…) who would have passed out in the middle of the SeaTac airport if I hadn’t flagged down an attendant and propped her up in one of those mini-trams to get her to her connecting flight. (Nice woman. NEVER mix alcohol with pain meds…). The highlight: an amazing sunset at 10:20 pm (11:20 pm, CA time, on my Elmo watch.) off the left wing of the plane. Ink black sky off to the right at the same time!
When I landed in Fairbanks snow flurries had just begun, which was perfect because when I think of Alaska, I think SNOW. I was expecting COLD too but 28 degrees in Alaska felt warmer than 40 degrees in California. Seriously. And I NEVER expected to ask people to turn the heat down! (Maybe they’d cranked it up for the CA woman…)
Thursday Morning 6:45am: Met Rich, my fabulous "chauffeur," (who subs as a bus driver, school cook, tour guide, and from what I can tell, mentor/parent) in the lobby the next morning. Made sure I knew his last name ahead of time so I wouldn’t have to go up to strange men and ask, "Are you Rich?" !!!! For the visual, he showed up in a regular cotton t-shirt and jeans–no jacket, mittens, hat, gloves–nada. Impressive.
On our three hour ride to Tok, we passed through North Pole–smart folks built a post office there–and I had Santa send my nephew a post card to make sure he was eating his dinner and being a good big brother.
Saw miles of Pipeline sending oil (146 degrees!) to the "lower 48."
And voila! The sun came out as we headed up the Alcan Highway to Tok.
Check out these mountains! Isn’t it amazing where books will take you? Ifelt so blessed!
Thursday afternoon I did an assembly in Tok for the K-2 kids and then we headed to Dot Lake to meet the young authors! (Side note: The kids go out to play at recess even when the temp is below zero here. Teachers make sure they all have hats, mittens, jackets, etc. before they head outside! In winter, when they’re down to a few hours of sunlight, those hours are during the school day, so they don’t have to play in the dark.)
Kicked off the Young Author Conference with a keynote, a little elbow tag, and some ice breakers before heading back to my hotel in Tok for the night. [My other option, sleeping on the gym floor with the kids–been there, done that. : ) ] Rode back with a couple of our authors and "Pink" and I had a contest to see who had more items of their favorite color.(Mine:green. Pink’s: guess.)
I was hoping to get a glimpse of Aurora Borealis but the sky was overcast both nights. (Bought this post card instead. Doesn’t look real, does it?) Guess I’ll have to come back to see it another time!
Friday: Didn’t see a moose either (I’d heard tales of dodging moose on the highway.) but we did come across crazy caribou on our way back to Dot Lake for the conference. (Actually, the caribou came across us.) These gangly dudes look like someone put together random body parts from moose, deer, and possibly the brain of a squirrel…(Check out the middle one who couldn’t make up his mind which way to go after two of his buddies went one way and one went the other.)
The halls of Dot Lake School were decorated with posters by Tanacross teacher Bonnie and her talented students– clever takes on nursery rhyme characters–in honor of Goldie and Bo Peep! Aren’t these fun? (Click on thumbnail to get a larger view.)
The Alaska Gateway Young Author Conferencewas a fabulous way to encourage young writers. (And there were some good ones!) Four other teachers and I taught poetry workshops and the kids rotated through each. We wrote poker poems and 1st line/last line poems in mine. At the end of the conference, each writer went home with a conference t-shirt, photo button of their group, medal, certificate, their original book of poems, and big smiles! An added plus–they made new friends from the other schools!
Congrats to the teachers and all who organized this successful event. You are making such a difference in the lives of your students!It was an experience they’ll never forget–and I won’t either! Even if the only moose I saw was on this postcard : )
Friday after the conference, my "chauffeur" and his wife drove me back to Fairbanks, retracing our route through North Pole, and past rivers beginning to thaw from the long winter.
An Alaskan tourist web site call Tok, "The coldest inhabited town in Alaska, with the warmest friendliest people." They got the second part right anyway.
I had a 1:30 AM red-eye to catch Saturday morning so I passed the time Friday night at the Fairbanks airport working on my middle grades manuscript. Met a guy from Oahu, and another who was flying to Okinawa, slept 3 hours (I think) on the plane (1:30-4:30 am) then stretched out for two more in the Sea-Tac airport (6:30-8:30 am) before my flight home. would you believe I came home to 90 degree weather? Crazy! There’s no place like home. And you know what? There’s no place like Alaska!
It’s April (see below for excuses why I haven’t written!) and next week Goldie, Bo Peep, and I are going to Alaska! (No this is not a belated April fool’s joke!) Alaska Gateway School District–3 hours from Fairbanks– has invited me to be their visiting author for their Young Writers and Illustrators Conference, and help the students write their own books. How cool is that? [Note: according to the web, actual temps will range from a high of 40 degrees and a low of 7 below. DEFINITELY COOL! ] I promise to bring my camera (well–actually, it’s my daughter’s camera…)–and BIG DRUM ROLL–share my adventure with all when I get back–(Not in two months–Can I do this?? check back in and see!)
Erin’s Top 4 excuses for not writing in this blog since February:
I. SCBWI New York was awesome! The best part was running into Atheneum ‘s Emma Dryden and spending time with my editor, Caitlyn Dlouhy, who is so insightful, and positive, and fun to work with, I consider myself one very lucky writer! Sat in on Caitlyn’s break-out session where she said VOICE and personality are what attracts her to a manuscript. Look at this woman’s desk! (photo right) Do you still wonder why it takes editors so long to respond to your manuscript? : )
2. Asilomar SCBWI Golden Gate Conference: Despite a bit of rain, my author pals Anne Martin Bowlerand Elaine Russelland Iwere able to squeeze in some walks on the beach and I got to hang out with the amazing Patricia Polacco. If you have never heard Patricia speak, you are missing something fabulous. She mesmerized the room full of writers and illustrators with her stories and her words of wisdom, "We don’t fear failure! (This happens to us every day.) We fear success!" Isn’t that the truth? I also had the pleasure of meeting editor Randi Rivers (Charlesbridge) who gave me some excellent comments on one of my manuscripts–(see excuse #3), and hear Liz Szabla (Feiwel and Friends) talk about–guess what??–VOICE (Is there a recurring theme here??)
3. This much I’ve learned: A writer needs to write more than blogs and e-mails. I’m working on three new manuscripts and revising another per Randi River’s request, so I need to end this blog soon!
4. Author Visits! Love, love, love them! Thank you to Kira and Isabelle who wrote to me recently. I’m thrilled you think I’m funny! Yay! Thank you to the Sacramento Area Library Association for inviting me to be part of your Author’s Symposium last weekend, and to the ARRC committee and my workshop participants at the Asilomar Regional Reading Council Conference March 1-2, who dove in and tried all of my crazy theater games! Hi to Korematsu Elementary (Davis CA), Stonegate Elementary (San Jose CA),Visions in Education (Woodland CA), Sargeant Elementary (Roseville CA), Glenwood School (Sacramento CA), Jackson Elementary (El Dorado Hills CA) and all five schools in the Buckeye Union School District!
Time to PBIC and get back to writing! How about you?
February already??? Well, it’s certainly been a while since my last entry…What have I been doing you ask?
Celebrating SLJ’sselection of Little Bo Peep Can’t Get to Sleep as a REMARKABLE READ(SEPT. 07). Yay !!!!
SCHOOL VISITS! (Which I love, Love, LOVE!) Many, many thanks to the students and staff at Paradise Valley Elementary (Morgan Hill CA), Spinelli Elementary (Antelope CA),and the schools in Buckeye Union School District (Cameron Park CA): Buckeye Elementary, Blue Oak Elementary , Silva Valley Elementary, William Brooks Elementary for their warm welcomes and enthusiastic responses to my assemblies. : )
And let’s not forget BOOK STORE VISITS, including my upcoming visit to Barnes & Nobleat Sunrise in Sacramento on February 12th, 2008! I’ll be there at 10:30am for Storytime and I have a fun little Valentine craft based on Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox, who’s just ITCHIN’ TO BE YOUR VALENTINE!
In between all of this, and of course the holidays (LOVELY time–glad they’re over!), I’ve been writing, trying not to bug my agent too much : ) (This agent stuff is fairly new to me and I’ve always been a bit of an over-achiever…), giving a few keynotes including a fun evening with the Placer Area Reading Council, putting together a power point retrospective to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our SCBWI Golden Gate Conference at Asilomar (which is coming up at the end of the month!), writing some more, trying to stay healthy (I think I’m immune to Airborne at this point…) and rooting for my awesome teenage daughter and her Girls’ Varsity basketball team! Go G!
And this weekend, I get to go to the NYC SCBWI conference and hang out with my Valentine in NYC!!!! Can’t wait! I promise to take copious notes, and not to take three more months to enter them in my blog.Check back next week to see if I’m true to my word or just in denial…
Fall weather makes me want to curl up with a good book! And judging from the armloads of books kids at Barnes & Noble(Roseville CA) were toting this past weekend, I’m not the only one. Little Bo Peepand Goldie Locksand I saw some old friends–like my writing pal Ann Martin Bowler (far left) whose new book, Adventures of the Treasure Fleet (Tuttle) is just out [Congrats Annie!] , and family friends Leah(far right) and her mom who helped some of the smaller booklovers make their sheep puppets(Thank you!), not to mention kids and teachers who remembered me from school visitsat Rocklin Academy, Quail Glen, Cobblestone, and Charles Brown Elementary–plus we made lots of new friends too! (Like Noel–who brought her proud grandpa–on my right, and Cody–who knew all of the nursery rhyme references!– on my lap.) How does that song go?
Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.That’s what books are like. Know what I mean? Those golden friends that kids want to read over and over again. And the new friends that open your world to magical new adventures.
A big thanks to Barnes and Noble event coordinator Christina Richter (below left with her froggy friend who’s holding Shirley Parentau’spicture book One Frog Sang) and the Queen of the children’s section *Deanna* and your staff for such a warm welcome.
And here’s a silly photo of me reading Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox. (You can’t say I don’t get into my stories!): )