Tuesday, February 9, 2016

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Out Flew the Rice Birds by Clare Hodgson Meeker

I'm so please to share this "colorful" 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by the prolific and talented Clare Hodgson Meeker, children's book author.

“There are places I remember
 all my life though some have changed 
Some forever not for better, 
some are gone and some remain….” 

--from In My Life, a song by John Lennon

Twenty years ago, my husband and I took our first trip to Thailand. Some vacations are meant to be relaxing. I knew this would not be one of them, but that challenge makes me feel alive. It was winter. Still the temperatures soared to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the smell of raw fish and pungent spices in the open markets overwhelmed my senses. On a harrowing night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, we were locked in by armed guards who said they were protecting us from bandits. It made a great story, once we safely arrived at our destination. It was an amazing trip experiencing this exotic culture – visiting shimmering gold and bright red Buddhist temples, listening for the bell that called the monks in their orange robes to prayer, seeing tall, delicate lotus flowers with their roots in the mud, and the small brown rice birds flying over the rice fields. These were the characters in the ancient Thai folktale about reincarnation and love lasting over lifetimes that became my first book, A Tale of Two Rice Birds.

Fast forward to this past December when we returned to Thailand as part of a larger trip to Vietnam and Cambodia on a small cruise ship. We were docked at Laem Chabang for the day and paid a visit to a busy site for tourists and Thai worshippers alike. Wat Phra Yai was a small temple that housed the largest Buddha in Chonburi.

As I was walking in from the parking lot, I saw a woman seated with a stack of colorful wooden bird cages in front of her. I asked our guide what she was selling and he answered, “For three dollars, you can release four rice birds from their cage.“ The small brown birds, as common in Thailand as robins are in America, were providing her a living wage. Without hesitation, I paid the woman what she asked and opened the cage door.

Out flew the birds and up into a nearby tree, most likely to be caught again. But that moment of setting them free was thrilling, like writing a happy ending to a story. That sense of accomplishing something beautiful is also deeply satisfying.

Clare Hodgson Meeker is the author of 11 books for young readers including the Smithsonian Notable Book Lootas Little Wave Eater, An Orphaned Sea Otter’s Story.

Her new chapter book, Rhino Rescue! and More Amazing True Stories of Saving Animals is published by National Geographic and will be available in bookstores starting this month. She works from home on Mercer Island near Seattle, and teaches writing in schools through Seattle Arts and Lectures.

Author site: www.claremeeker.com
Blog: www.claremeeker.com/blog
Twitter: @ClareMeeker

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

7:30 BELLS: The Best of the Bells--Guest Post by Janet Lee Carey

The wildly imaginative, award-winnning fantasy author Janet Lee Carey has allowed me to share again her lovely 7:30 BELLS guest post from April 2014

 I met her near the beach by the resort in Mazatlan. A plump, middle aged woman with mottled brown and cream skin, selling dresses and jewelry to the tourists. Her stall was a rock wall on the edge of the resort. She’d laid her colorful goods out in the sun and greeted people as they passed by. I was drawn to her jewelry and I found the perfect blue stone earrings in silver settings the first day of my stay. I’d been searching for stones that matched my eyes a long while, but I decided not to buy them yet. I’ve learned this frugal trick – to wait. I would come back if I still thought of them after a few days.

We stood together near the beach on my last vacation day. I eagerly bent over her small portable showcase looking for the earrings I’d found earlier. They were gone. 

“I told you you should get them when you wanted them,” she teased.
I kept looking for something blue to match my eyes. My husband found a pair I’d not noticed. He held them out. The earrings with multicolored blue stones had silverwork that swirled in the elegant shapes of treble clefs – a tiny tribute to the musician in me.

He bought them then complimented the shopkeeper on her English. 

“I learned speaking with people here,” she said proudly. “I did not go to school.” 

I looked at her face to thank her. We were both smiling. Her eyes shone dusky brown gold: the colors of sunrise when the new sun spreads across red desert earth. Warm light poured out of them. She told me her name. I told her mine. I was swept away by her beauty. I’d not looked into her eyes before we’d bought the ear rings. She’d watched me, intent on selling me something – me, being an easy pushover, intent on not being talked into buying something I didn’t want. 

Now we’d finished the transaction we could face each other in gratitude. She beamed, filling me with her warmth. She saw me and I saw her beyond the small business exchange we’d just made by the beach. We could see the wonderful game we’d just played together – and laugh. 

True eye contact can be as intimate as an embrace. Each of us is a world. Catching each other’s eyes – two worlds meet for a brief moment. 

Why have I been so afraid to look? 

I wear the ear rings still. I’m wearing them now. The blue brightness of them brings comments. People like them.

They are blue like my eyes. But I remember hers. 

I cannot remember her name. I will never forget her eyes. 

Janet Lee Carey was raised in the redwood forests of California. Hearing the soft speech of the ancient, whispering trees she dreamed of becoming a writer. She is the award-winning author of eight Young Adult novels including Dragonswood, (Kirkus and School Library Journal starred reviews). Her Wilde Island fantasy books are ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults. School Library Journal calls her work, "fantasy at its best-original, beautiful, amazing, and deeply moving." 
Carey links each new book with a charitable organization empowering readers to reach out and make a difference.

She tours the U.S. and abroad presenting at schools, book festivals and conferences for writers, teachers, and librarians. http://www.janetleecarey.com

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on February 9 for a guest post with children's book author Clare Hodgeson Meeker.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

7:30 BELLS: The White Wonder of Now

Witness pure joy. And feel it yourself—I did when I watched this panda reveling in last weekend’s record snow in Washington DC. No doubt— the bells are ringing for Tian Tian! And for me as I watched his joy. I’ve seen animals play, but I’ve never seen pure instinctual joy like this.

And it makes me wonder. Is joy instinctual? So much of human consciousness has only recently emerged from our vast primordial unconscious past—and that past still walks with us below our awareness. We get intimations of it in dreams, art, myths, religious symbols, and behavior we don’t understand.

Hunger, fear, the urge to create and procreate, protect—all are instinctual. I love the idea that what we consider “higher” human emotions are instinctual as well.

I wish I could feel such pure joy. Part of it has to do with the animal ability to transcend time. No past. No future. Just snow sliding under me, flying around me in the vast white wonder of now.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on February 9 for a guest post with children's book author Clare Hodgeson Meeker.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Magic Cup is Coming!

Dia Calhoun and Lorie Ann Grover
 are excited to announce the upcoming publication of 

A Business Parable About a Leader, a Team, 
and the Power of Putting People and Values First
by Howard Behar

Calhoun and Grover collaborated in the writing with Behar, 
former president of Starbucks International. 

The book encapsulates the values Behar has held
as a leader throughout his life, 
such as truth, courage, compassion, and responsibility. 

THE MAGIC CUP helps us discover
that only by acting on sound moral values
can we fill our lives 
with the personal and professional success
and satisfaction we seek.

Forward by Jeff Brotman,
Co-founder and Chairman of Costco

Available March 22, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Fog Song Under the Stars

In early evening, fog rises from fields near the river, and hovers like a halo. But the sky is clear. Later, when I step out for a night walk, the fog swells above the tree tops, ringing the horizon. But the sky is still clear. Mighty Orion surges in the south. And that immovable point at the sky’s heart—the North Star—shines brightly.

The Bells ring as I think, how strange life is, What is eternal, timeless
a celestial road that is light-years awayis clear and close above me. But what's only a few yards from my hand is blurred in a dark watercolor fog, a blending of the world like a painting by J.M.W. Turner. No open road there. 

But the fog has its own beautyblue, purple, black. Suddenly I don’t mind that I can’t see the near road, because I can see the essential one. 

Most of the time, life is the other way around. And that's worse, I think. The near world, the near road to take looks obvious. Meanwhile fog floats overhead, obscuring the essential, far road that we should really use to navigate by.

Perhaps there's a clue here to holding times of uncertainty in our lives with comfort instead of distress. Maybe we can even see that uncertain state as beautiful, a fog-song of its own
if we stay connected to whatever the essential is for us—and if we trust that somehow, someway, the far starry road will lead us through the fog.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on February 9 for a guest post with children's book author Clare Hodgeson Meeker.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chime of the Day

Great ideas do not come from the well behaved.

     --paraphrased from a talk by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Scribbling in the Void by Erik Brooks

Erik Brooks, illustrator/author of children's books, lives in the same Methow Valley that inspired four of my novels. I'm so pleased to share this inspiring (and very kind) guest post.

Thank you Dia for the invite. I’m excited to participate—especially knowing that we shared the same ill-fated debut publisher oh so many years ago. But its good to know as well that we weathered an early hiccup to continue doing what we love—making our way in the world of children’s lit.

If I’m perfectly honest, the twenty-seven-year-old me was humbled and impressed by your eloquent and articulate descriptions of that early publication experience—something about “Waltzing on Quicksand” —and the same holds true today to see you exploring these many varied sources of inspiration in the 7:30 BELLS. Sixteen years ago you epitomized a professional and thoughtful approach to creative endeavor — so thank you for setting a high bar and keep up the great work!

Regarding the Bells—these vibes that spark us to creative things—I wanted to write about the wild—about growing up Alaskan and about living on the edge of the Washington’s own Cascadian wilderness. Or about winter, which goes hand-in-hand in my mind. I love the snow. I love the quiet. It feels different than the everyday and therefore special—lightly chiming for an entire season. And truly, bells do ring for me in this regard—connecting a forty-three-year-old author/illustrator, husband, and father, to the elementary school-aged child who explored the Anchorage foothills.

But even more than wilderness and winter, the most important chime for me is the physical endeavor—the engagement outdoors, and then the lull that follows. I get out. I run. I ski. I shovel the driveway! And these little explorations—are tantamount to ringing. I work, like many of us, sitting, in relative isolation—so its AMAZING to be out! Its even better of course when you catch a fleeting glimpse of a mountain lion tail—or hold a sleeping wolverine in your arms—but chimes can peel in so many ways.

As unique and caterwauling as these active moments can be however, what rings me most are those quiet moments of repose. The after, perhaps, even more than the action. The sound of my heartbeat. The pause and the breath. The gulp of inspiration. Things happen. Wild surprises. But space, it seems, is created in the lull. And that is where the pencil really comes to life—scribbling in the void—ringing at a furious pace.

Erik Brooks illustrator of 20+ books for children and the author/illustrator of several more including the Washington State Book award winning Polar Opposites, and next years’ Later, Gator! (Sterling, 2016). When not drawing, writing, or visiting schools and libraries, you’ll find him coaching cross-country and track at the local high school, running, skiing, and wandering through the North Cascades. Erik lives in Winthrop, Washington, with his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Keeley. Say hello to Erik online at erikbrooks.com.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on February 9 for a guest post with children's book author Clare Hodgeson Meeker.