Friday, November 22, 2013

Poetry Friday: WHITE SAIL


White sail cleave
     grieving skies,
     iron seas.
Silken scimitar—
     tack for light.

Dia Calhoun
Commencement Bay

Friday, November 15, 2013


Today feels like winter, so here's a poem from twelve-year-old Eva DeHart, from Eva of the Farm.


Old Man Woodstove
chortles and snorts
belching heat
from his hot full belly
that steams wet mittens
hanging on hooks--
that steams the wet dog
snoring on the rug--
that steams wet me
bringing in more wood
from the snow
to stuff in his greedy belly
that keeps us warm
all winter long.

~Eva of the Farm
p 125

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Listening to The Record on KUOW as I drove home last Friday, I was wonderfully surprised to hear Nancy Pearl review After the River the Sun!

Two quotes:
"[this book] reads so fluidly, and it's just so lovely."
~Nancy Pearl

"I think this is an excellent book . . . a wonderful novel."
~Nancy Pearl

Click here to hear the entire segment from Nancy Pearl's Book Picks with Steve Scher.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Classroom Guide for AFTER THE RIVER THE SUN

I am so pleased to share a free, professionally prepared Classroom and Reader's Guide for After the River the Sun. It includes new Common Core state standards. Click Here for the pdf.

Here's an excerpt about quests from pages three and four:
“Eckhart had read/that turtles liked to bask in the sun./This one might die from the cold … /A knight would rescue it.” [Page 19] Eckhart looks at challenges that come his way through the lens of the knights he wishes to emulate, especially Sir Gawain. Like those knights, he is on several different quests throughout the novel. 

Discuss with the class Eckhart’s many quests. For each one, have students identify the goal, his method for achieving it, and the ultimate resolution. Be sure to include the following and go as far beyond this list as your class takes you: 

 The quest for home 

 The quest to win the game of The Green Knight

 The quest for courage 

 The task of clearing, then replanting, the orchard 

 The quest to atone for his parents’ deaths 

Which other characters have quests (or goals)? Have the class name them and talk about how  they go about achieving their goals. 

RL 6.1, 6.2, 6.3; SL 6.1

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"I send all the Greater Powers to you"

A writer has no greater happiness than receiving a priceless letter like this one from ten-year-old Linnea, thanking her aunt for sending her EVA OF THE FARM.

My thanks to you, Linnea, for lighting stars in my day.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

7:30 BELLS: Carillon of Revelation

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

Monday, November 4, 2013


SCBWI's Inside Story event last night was a wonderful celebration of new books by Washington state authors. Below is the presentation I gave--about the "inside story" of After the River the Sun. Thanks to the kind and energetic author Deb Lund for organizing the event!

Writing After the River the Sun started with a dream and ended with a fire that came too late. In the dream, I wandered through a barren desert. I had to plant something to turn the desert green, had to fight so I could rise from tragedy and shine again. That began the story of Eckhart Lyon. A boy who looses his home and his courage after his parents drown in a river. A Seattle boy exiled to live with his uncle on a dead orchard in Eastern Washington.

What a grand creative adventure writing this book was! I created a video game based on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Watched as the game and Eckhart’s story blended one into the other.  Watched as Eckhart and Eva, from my book Eva of the Farm, became friends. I even fell in love—with Bach’s famous violin piece—the Chaconne. After playing it Eckhart’s mother sweeps her bow upward and says: “And that is the cry of a shining soul as it rises, fighting its way toward heaven.” 

Eckhart climbs Heaven’s Gate Mountain on a quest to regain his courage. High up, he spots
a wildfire burning straight down toward the new orchard he has planted with his uncle, the orchard that has helped them both begin to rise from tragedy and shine again.

Forward to the morning of September 10, 2012.

The book had just gone to press. I drove toward my father-in-law’s orchard--the inspiration for both After the River the Sun and Eva of the Farm. The night before, lightning strikes had started over one hundred wildfires in Eastern Washington. From ten miles away, I saw smoke rising from the low mountain above the farm. The road turned into a ribbon of dread.

Like Eckhart, we went into fire-fighting mode. Like Eckhart, I feared for a place I loved. Imagined the hills blackened, the trees scorched. Even as I helped rig sprinkler lines, though, I wished I could rewrite those wildfire scenes in the book, experience telling me I didn’t get them quite right.

Night fell. Each orange spot burning on the mountain burned my heart. I feared what the morning would bring. Then I remembered how Eckhart had faced his fire. As I stood in the dark staring up at the burning mountain, I knew that Eckhart was braver than I‘d ever imagined. Knew that this boy, fighting to rise from tragedy with his dreams of knightly valor, was my best work ever. My manifesto on shining. I got that right.

Friday, November 1, 2013


A poem by twelve-year-old Eva DeHart from my middle grade novel, EVA OF THE FARM.


Wood crackles the dawn,
and I know the same old bear is feasting
in the same old plum tree again.
Every year he swipes off whole branches,
gorging on glistening plums.
Does he dream of plundering our orchard
all winter in his stuffy den?

The tree looks worse every year--
mauled and broken--
but keeps bearing plums
as fat and red as a baby's cheeks.
The bear looks worse every year too--
muzzle grey, fut matted, one ear missing--
but keeps looting.

I keep expecting one of them to die--
the tree or the bear--
but they seem to need each other.
Which just goes to show you
that sometimes things work out fine
for everybody.
So long as that old bear
leaves a few plums for me.

--Eva of the Farm
page 55