Sunday, November 18, 2012


An unexpected benefit of my three week trip last summer to Italy, was a reduction in muscle pains and stiffness that had plagued me for years. When I mention this, everyone says, “of course, you were on vacation—no stress.”

Wrong. I largely traveled alone in a foreign country—lots of stress, though much of it good stress. No, I felt better because  for the first time in decades, I had three weeks off from sitting eight hours a day in front of a computer.  As fate would have it, lots of information came out last summer about the health perils of spending your life sitting. Check out these statistics from an article on The New York Times blog:

"Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes."

"By comparison, smoking a single cigarette reduces life expectancy by about 11 minutes, the authors said."

"Looking more broadly, they concluded that an adult who spends an average of six hours a day watching TV over the course of a lifetime can expect to live 4.8 years fewer than a person who does not watch TV."

"Those results hold true, the authors point out, even for people who exercise regularly."

"...those people with the “highest sedentary behavior,” meaning those who sat the most, had a 112 percent increase in their relative risk of developing diabetes; a 147 percent increase in their risk for cardiovascular disease; and a 49 percent greater risk of dying prematurely — even if they regularly exercised."

So I researched what are called sit-stand work stations. Though they are becoming more common, you will not yet find them at your local office depot. Before buying anything, I decided to give writing on my feet a test. I simply piled boxes on a table and put my laptop on top. After two weeks, I decided I loved writing on my feet.

So, after more research, I bought the Annua Work Table from Dania. Solidly built, it is big enough for my laptop, a cup of tea, and a book.

With the touch of a button, I can adjust the height from sitting to standing—anywhere from 28 to 41 inches. And the work table is well designed--the table top comes forward in the lower positions so it is easy to work in a chair. I can roll it on casters anywhere you wish—I move from window to window, depending on time of day and season.  Next summer, I plan to roll it out under my umbrella on the patio. I use the work table’s sturdy base for a footrest—it is important to have one foot on a foot rest some of the time to alleviate pressure on the low back.  After more research, I invested in an anti-fatigue mat to stand on. Get a good one—it really does make a difference.

Although I alternate between standing—an hour or so—and sitting—30 minutes or so, I find I now prefer to work standing up. There is something about the looseness of it. Not only  I do have fewer muscle pains, I also have more energy at the end of the day. I am now setting up a larger sit-stand work table, for the graphic design work I do. You don’t have to spend a lot of money…check out the ideas on this pinterest site.

So, writers out there, for your health, for your work—stand up for writing. You will feel better and live longer.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

From YA Fantasies to Middle Grade Verse

Why did I start writing middle grade novels after years of writing young adult fantasy novels? It all started by chance one hot summer day at the Farm—my husband’s family orchard in Eastern Washington. My good friend Lorie Ann Grover—acclaimed verse novelist—had joined me for a week long writing retreat. During our writing breaks, I showed her all the wonders of the Farm: the pear and apple trees, the hills, the hammock under the maples, and the bordering Methow River. Years earlier, I had written a series of poems about the Farm, poems I had never thought to publish. I pulled the folder of poems down from the shelf and showed them to Lorie Ann. After reading them, she told me I was a poet and should write a verse novel about the Farm. I loved that idea!

So I began writing Eva of the Farm, a contemporary novel about a girl whose beloved orchard is threatened with foreclosure due to blight, illness, and bad economic times. Eva emerged as a girl with a vivid imagination. Her own poems are sprinkled throughout the novel, and they poured out of me in the voice of a young girl who views her world with wonder, freshness, and innocence. I knew at once she was not a young adult protagonist and that the book would be a middle grade novel.

My first young adult novels, Firegold and Aria of the Sea, were about twelve and thirteen-year-olds, but my later ones—White Midnight, The Phoenix Dance, and Avielle of Rhia—featured older teen girls. Some of this shift toward older teens was story driven, and some of it was driven by the changing market for young adult books. When I started writing Eva of the Farm, I knew I had returned to something fundamental. Most of the books I loved as a girl, and still love, were books for younger kids: The Secret Garden, Ballet Shoes, National Velvet, The Dark is Rising, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, A Little Princess. When I finished writing Eva of the Farm, I felt as though I had returned home.

I was very honored to have received encouragement during this transition from Karen Hesse, author of the awe-inspiring Out of the Dust I am so thankful for all her support.

Eva of the Farm was published in July by Atheneum. After the River the Sun, a companion novel, will be published 2013. Currently, I am hard at work on a new challenge--a middle grade fantasy novel in verse.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Eva in Bloomers?

EVA OF THE FARM has just been nominated for the American Library Association's AMELIA BLOOMER BOOKLIST!

Here is what my character EVA told me when I sent her an imaginary e-mail with the news: What fun! I am a heroine at last--I am so glad people value a heroine whose shining sword is her imagination! Maybe I can find a pair of old fashioned bloomers at the Senior Center Thrift Shop in Twisp to wear when I hike up the canyon."

Description of the Amelia Bloomer Booklist:
"An annual booklist of the best feminist books for young readers, ages birth through 18.  We are part of the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association!"

Amelia Bloomer