Tuesday, April 14, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Climbing Mountains, Writing Novels--by author David Patneaude

I'm so pleased to share this month's guest post by David Patneaude, amazing and prolific author for kids and young adults, whom I've had the good fortune to know for years.

In 2010 a couple of my brothers and I made the trek to Mt. Rainier’s Camp Muir. When I eventually gazed around from the observation point at everything, even other peaks, spread out below us in a wild, seemingly untouched landscape, I felt the standing-on-top-of-the-world sensation lifting me even higher. I also felt the altitude—10,400 feet—and the temperature change—seventy-something at Paradise Lodge when we’d left, thirty-something when we arrived at Muir.

Except for the hum and whistle of wind, a blanket of silence lay everywhere.

For much of the steady climb, fatigue had dogged me. The last half of the trek was in calf-deep snow. So it was put your head down, don’t look up, keep slogging, don’t think about the constant backsliding, don’t sit down because you might not want to get up. And the other voice: there’s a beer with your name on it waiting down at the lodge, masochist! Smarten up! Turn around!

But the beer could wait. I’d done difficult things—boot camp, the Navy, crappy jobs, a soured marriage, marathons, shorter races at faster speeds, the Columbia Tower climb, a triathlon, dark days and death (other people’s, not mine). I could do this. And once I got to the end of our grind and had a real chance to take in my surroundings, I thought about inspiration. Then imagination. Then story.

Writing. And the parallels between what I’d just experienced and was experiencing and the art or craft or carnival show or whatever you think of when you consider the process of getting words down on paper or into the memory of a computer and not stopping until you’ve reached your destination.

Something inspires you to write a story and you imagine a scene or fuzzy overview or maybe you’ve got an actual outline and you start off with a ton of enthusiasm but then you get bogged down because that stuff in your head doesn’t flow onto the paper like you thought it would. The ideas dry up, the right words don’t come, the characters stay flat and uninteresting. But you look around and realize what it was that got you going. You remember the times you’ve done this before. You see the millions of books out there and realize how many other people have done it. You recall how you prepared. Instead of a sweaty hour on the Stairmaster or six rainy miles on the trail or a mile of steep uphill along the pipeline, you’ve read thousands of books and written hundreds of thousands of words and even when you weren’t actually writing you kept your writing brain in gear, looking for inspiration and using your imagination and generating and revising ideas.

So trudging up the side of a mountain is a metaphor for writing something substantial. And vice versa. And if I want to go deeper, I’d say that both are metaphors for life. But I’ll leave the details of that comparison to your imagination.

From his home in Woodinville, Washington, or anywhere else he happens to be, David Patneaude writes middle grade and young adult novels and stories. His books have appeared on many state young readers lists, won awards, been translated into other languages, recorded for listening, and produced as a movie. When he’s not writing he enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, exploring the outdoors, running, and of course, reading.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on May 12 for a guest post with children's author and legendary children's book editor Margery Cuyler.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Best of the Bells--Carillon of Revelation

Occasionally I feature the most popular past 7:30 BELLS posts. This one is from November of 2013 when I discovered poet Mary Oliver.

The bells rang rang this week when I discovered the poet Mary Oliver. Stunned and filled and fed, I sat reading her New and Selected Poems, the collection that won the National Book Award. I’ve been thinking for some time of writing poetry more seriously, but my poems seemed too simple and narrative, not complex or abstract enough. Reading Mary Oliver was not only a revelation, but permission to be the poet I want to be.

This 7:30 BELLS series came from my solo trip to Italy in the late spring of 2012, where I was on fire to the bone and dashed out poem after poem. (more on that here). I came home determined to Vivere e Scrivere—to live and to write. When I read Oliver’s poem  SOMETIMES (in the collection RED BIRD), she stated that so beautifully and succinctly.

     “Instructions for living a life:
            Pay attention.
            Be astonished.
            Tell about it.”

That's  exactly how I want to live. You’ll notice Oliver does not add, “Have a multitude of readers, ” after "Tell about it."

So I will be writing more poems, telling about what astonishes me. Whether anyone ever reads them has nothing to do with living.


Vivere e Scrivere

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on April 14 for a guest post with the wonderful children's author Dave Patneaude.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

730 BELLS: Revelation Spring

Every year I wait for it, counting the days until spring. Spring with its new beginnings. It’s new life. Green waking up the world and waking up me after the long winter of darkness. But this spring is more tantalizing than ever because I’m witnessing it in the country—on three riverside acres that is our new home.

Everything here is a revelation. I don’t know what bulbs are working toward the light. Don’t know which tree or bush will leaf and bloom next. Even the light is different. I now have a vast view of the sky. For the first time I saw the full moon rise in the west while the evening star glimmered down into the fir trees west of the river.

Not only spring, but all the first year will ring with revelations. What birds will come? What will the river look like at high summer dusk? How will the raspberries taste? What colors will autumn paint? How many squirrels will raid the walnut tree? 

And what kind of creative work will this place inspire? What ideas? What kind of life will it guide me to?

I can’t wait to find out.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on April 14 for a guest post with the wonderful children's author Dave Patneaude.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

7:30 BELLS: The Bells are Moving

The bells are moving, 
bells tucked into boxes,
the bells are moving to the country, 
to the river, 
bells soon to ring
at last, at last to ring
with tall trees,
     with red-tailed hawks
            with the roar and hum of river and wind

I will unpack my heart
that has waited so long,
I will unpack the bells,
     wait for it--
hear that wild clamor and clang?
hear my heart roar

:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on April 14 for a guest post with the wonderful children's author Dave Patneaude.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

7:30 BELLS: One Heart, Two Sets of Bells

Soon, we will be moving to a new house—three acres on a river. Already I hear the sweet, lithe bells of tomorrow—the promise of a new beginning. And I hear the somber bells of goodbye to a house I’ve lived in for over twenty years.

Sometimes both sets of bells ring at the same time. Tears of happiness and tears of sorrow blend on my cheeks. Then I remember what I learned in Italy, that the whole, rich picture of life—joy and sorrow—is what I must embrace. Both are part of life. Both mean being alive.

Simply hold out your hands and hold up your heart to all of life.

Ring. It is all good.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Guest Post by author Laurie Ann Thompson

I'm so pleased to introduce 7:30 BELLS readers to Laurie Ann Thompson, my new friend and author of two wonderful non-fiction books for kids. Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters, and Emmanuel's Dream.

I recently did an author visit with two classes of sixth graders for their Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) unit on teen activism. I normally plan to speak for about 40 minutes and save the last 20 minutes for questions. For the first time, I ran out of things to say only 20 minutes in. I still can’t figure out what happened: did I skip a section, talk too fast, what? I was in a little bit of a panic when I realized I had 40 minutes left to fill and no plan for keeping 50 hungry 11-year-olds focused on the topic (it was right before lunch!). I decided to open it up to questions in the middle, which would give me time to frantically try to figure out what to say for the last 20 minutes.

Fortunately, the kids were awesome. Engaged and interested throughout, they had a TON of serious, insightful questions. We had meaningful discussions about being a changemaker, about reading, about writing, and about how the three overlap and enhance each other. Lo and behold, we used up all of our time! Despite its lack of structure, it was one of the best visits I’ve ever had, and I’m still feeling a little bit high from it.

The truth is I always feel like I’m walking on air after a presentation. As I told those kids, that never ceases to amaze me! When I was contemplating switching careers to become an author, one thing terrified me more than anything else—public speaking—and I’d do just about anything to avoid it. Toward the end of my senior year of high school, the administration posted our GPAs. I was one of the top in my class, which meant I’d have to give a speech at graduation. I nearly failed my last semester of Spanish—after having gotten As for four years straight—in a desperate attempt to end up third in my class. Success! No speech.

At that point, my main goal was to not be noticed. I lived in constant fear of making a mistake, terrified of failure. I avoided doing anything I wasn’t already sure I was good at. No one could find out I was a fraud, that I wasn’t really as smart as they all said I was. I played it safe and stuck to what I knew. That is no way to be a changemaker. In fact, it’s no way to live.

Of course, life has a way of changing us. Since then I’ve been put in situations that were way outside my comfort zone. Each time, successful or not, my comfort zone expanded. Succeeding at or even just surviving something I thought was out of reach is the best high there is. The bells ring for me when I’ve pushed myself to do something I never thought I could. That rush of adrenaline tells me I’m alive and growing, and that’s the best feeling there is.

Laurie Ann Thompson writes for children and young adults to help her readers—and herself—make better sense of the world we live in so we can contribute to making it a better place. She strive to write nonfiction that gives wings to active imaginations and fiction that taps into our universal human truths. She believes that each of us is capable of doing amazing things once we discover our passion, talent, and purpose. Thompson's books are: Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters, and Emmanuel's Dream, both Junior Library Guild Selections. My Dog Is the Best, is coming soon.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on April 14 for a guest post with the wonderful children's author Dave Patneaude.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

7:30 BELLS: The Best of the Bells: The Gossamer of Possibility

Occasionally I feature the most popular past 7:30 BELLS posts. This one is from December of 2013 when I was stunned by an exhibit of Isabelle de Borchgrave's full size, gossamer paper dresses.

Art that resonates with you can set the bells wildly ringing. That happened to me this week when I saw the exhibit, A World of Paper, A World of Fashion: Isabelle de Borchgrave Meets Mariano Fortuny, at the Bellevue Art Museum.

Using the exquisite dresses designed by Fortuny (1871-1949) as a point of departure, Isabelle de Borchgrave concocted other-worldly dream dresses out of paper—painted, glued, torn, crumpled. A few have backdrops made entirely of paper, like the tent pavilion pictured below. Some of the other-worldliness comes from surprise and fascination—full size dresses fashioned of paper instead of fabric. Tissue thin veils sway in the breeze. Some of the other-worldliness comes from the evocation of the legendary past—Moorish, Arabic, Persian, Coptic, Japanese patterns painted in tromp l’oeil on the paper.

But for me, most of the other-worldliness comes from being cast into a realm of fantastic imagination. Some of these dresses had presences. Standing before a tent pavilion, watching gossamer paper drapes ripple, I rang with possibility. Lines of poetry filled my mind, ideas for stories, and shapes for a sculpture project I’m working on.

You never know what will make the bells ring and bring you alive. Never know what will converge with your current creative tuning and set you on fire. So seek things out. Fantastic worlds of imagination await, if you make time to open yourself to the gossamer of possibility. 

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on March 10 for a guest post with the wonderful children's author Laurie Thompson.