Tuesday, December 29, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Rest and Restoration

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who have shared in the ringing of 7:30 BELLS this past year. The bells are quiet today for a time of rest and restoration, but will ring out again next week. I hope you will join me then to begin another year of sharing and practicing what makes our hearts, minds, and spirits ring and resonate with the radiance of being alive.

All my best,
Dia Calhoun


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

7:30 BELLS: The Radiance of Rain

Rain, sun, wind, clouds—then rain again. In other words, we’re having weather here at the river. Inside, evergreen boughs and shining Christmas trees echo ancient traditions of winter solstice—they encourage the sun to turn, to return, to please please hurry back to those starved for light.

Outside, on my walk during a sun beak, each tree is jeweled with raindrops. Maybe this inspired the idea for Christmas tree lights, but the trees and the rain knew it first.

I once thought of higher spiritual ideas as jewels that existed “up there.” We had to work hard to get to them. Climb ladders of theology, follow stone-inscribed precepts, fast ten thousand days in the wilderness, read every spiritual text. But in the ringing radiance of rain on the branches, I know I was wrong.

Wind has taken its toll in the woods. Many branches twist on the ground. I see broken limbs, split trunks, trampled leaves. But every piece of green, not only those in the high treetops, is jeweled with raindrops. The imperfect, the fallen, the broken—we're all radiant.

The jewels lay on every part of our lives, every part of ourselves that has been broken, beaten, every part wounded or scarred. They even shine on the mundane of dirty dishes and downloads that fill so much of our lives. We just have to see them. Pick them up, turn them in our hand. Maybe we don’t know right away what they mean. But keep collecting them, keep fingering them in your pocket until you do.

Outside, I knew the weather was changing again when the wind rose. The trees danced alive, showering drops of jeweled rain to the grass, to the leaves, the weeds, the indomitable cherry tree already budding.

And that’s how I’d like to be. And that’s what I’d like to do.

Welcome, winter solstice.


7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on January 12 for a guest post with children's book author Erik Brooks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Winter is a Phoenix that Rises in Spring

Only days from winter solstice, I huddle near the bonfire. Here in the country, no yard waste truck weekly whisks away a sedate container of leaves. Acres of trees wantonly toss their leaves on our property. And even moderate winds bring down branches. So we rake and we rake and we endlessly rake. And light bonfires in autumn and winter.

Like this one. With dark falling at 4:00, the molten gold embers hold my eye. Then the beauty of the lacy ash. The wood being consumed.

Our life being lived and consumed creates our own circling seasons of fire, ash, and fire again. Living is combustion. We are the fuel. Poet Wendell Berry wrote, “Practice Resurrection.” And I think, stepping nearer the bonfire, what is winter but a phoenix that rises in spring? Every spring.

Even so, come winter solstice, come soon.


7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on January 12 for a guest post with children's book author Erik Brooks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Hearing Bells in Small Moments by Suzanne Williams

I'm so pleased to share this month's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by children's book author Suzanne Williams.

The only actual bell I possess is crafted as a Welsh woman in traditional garb. I was given it by my homestay family in Cardiff, Wales during my very first trip to Europe at age seventeen. (My high school band – I played clarinet – did a five week tour of Europe during the summer between my junior and senior year.)

The bell has a very sweet sound. I keep it on a tiered shelf in my home office along with souvenirs from many other trips. Partly because of that wonderful first trip, and partly because my adult daughter lives in Oslo, Norway, I have since made many more trips to Europe, and to other places as well.

I think the novelty of the things we see and do when traveling is one of the reasons those experiences stick with us and make us feel so alive. We break away from familiar settings and our normal routines when we travel, and we meet new people, too. But though I’ve experienced many lovely moments during trips abroad (and also during trips closer to home), some of my most joyful moments are everyday small moments.

I might be driving in a car not far from home, for example, when I come upon a stunning view of snow-capped mountains (I live in the Pacific Northwest), or a row of trees with brightly-colored fall leaves, and a feeling of awe and a profound sense of well-being washes over me.

Some of the small moments that bring me joy are ones I experience alone, such as when meditating, writing in my journal (or on a story), or reading something that is deliciously well-written, fascinating, funny, or insightful.

But my most joyful small moments are usually ones that connect me to others. These include daily walks with my husband and our small dog, coffee after yoga with gym lady friends, lunches out with my two sisters, and holiday dinners with extended family. Also, phone calls with faraway family and friends (including my amazing co-author, Joan Holub), get-togethers and meetings with other local children’s writers (like Dia!), and simple pleasant exchanges with acquaintances and strangers.

More often than I would like, I fail to take advantage of (or am oblivious to) the numerous opportunities I have each day to be joyful and alive. (The downside to things we do habitually.) Still, I am grateful for the times when I do remember to savor those small moments – to listen for those ringing bells.

Suzanne Williams is a former elementary school librarian and the author of over 60 books for children, including the award-winning picture book Library Lil(illustrated by Steven Kellogg). Together, she and Joan Holub write the Goddess Girls, Heroes in Training, and Grimmtastic Girls series. Suzanne is online at www.suzanne-williams.com


7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on January 12 for a guest post with children's book author Erik Brooks.
















Tuesday, December 1, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Clarity from Muddy Waters

A twenty degree morning. Frost lays like snow on the grass. Across the yard, the sun illuminates the trees on the far side of the river. In another hour, the river is a path of light flowing through the dark, winter wood.

The path doesn’t show crystal blue waters that let me see straight to the bottom. The Nisqually River, sprung from glaciers on Mount Rainer, runs high and muddy from recent rain. So the path of light is brown—softened by foaming epaulets of white lace.

But I need light cast on my muddy waters. The sun is telling me, “Look here. Look deep”. So much churns in the brown river—leaves, branches, dirt, old roots, and old bones. Things need to be seen and sorted. Some saved, some tossed, others made into something new.

“Mudlarks” once waded through the tidal Thames River in London—people looking for treasures. Treasures they could turn into coins, which they turned into bread. Sometimes they found dead bodies and bones. They always found filth.

That’s one risk of looking into our own muddy waters. Seeing our own filth that we’d rather ignore. The hope is that in the muddy, swirling depths we will find treasure that provides sustenance of whatever kind we need. 


All artists know that light is born from the mud. We search the muddy waters of our dreams, unconscious, imaginations. This is true not only for artists, but for everyone who wants to understand more about themselves and their world. For everyone who wants clarity.

The first step is simple: look for sun shining on a muddy river, ringing a way forward through the dark, winter wood.


7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on December 8 for a guest post with children's book author, Suzanne Williams.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

7:30 BELLS: The Best of the Bells

I occasionally run The Best of the Bells--favorite 7:30 BELLS posts from the past two and a half years. This one is from last summer. May you all find your hearts full of praise this Thanksgiving. 

In the field southeast of our house, daisies grow wild. Last night as I walked through them in the moonlight they shone—luminous, white-skirted, acres of them kicking up a can-can in the windy moonlight.

Enchanting, yes. Bells, bells, and more bells.

Then, the next morning, I walked through the field in the sunlight. Dazzling, bright, the daisies still kicked up their skirts in the wind, but now I saw their golden hearts revealed.


There’s a time to be luminous and mysterious. A time to be bright, bold, and flash your heart at the world. Sunlight and moonlight together, two things we never see at the same time, create the whole story. Look and keep looking, at every hour, in every light, for parts of yourself you can’t see all at once. Then knit them together in the wind to see your whole rich story.


7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on December 8 for a guest post with children's book author, Suzanne Williams.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Liminal Bells

This morning I woke to the first heavy frost of the season, and the first frost since we’ve moved to the river. I hurried out, crunching over crystal grass. I stopped, transfixed by the spectacle of these lingering maple leaves white-limned with frost. 

Outlines, borders, frontiers, thresholds—anything liminal always rings with mystery because it speaks of transition. And transitions are often tortuous to manage. But as I looked at these frosty maple leaves, I saw a clue to managing transitions.

Keep one foot in the known and one foot in the unknown. Hold and honor them both. Then wait. Wait for your world, outer and inner, to unfold its weather. Wait for the sun of a new day.

It will surely come.


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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Guest Post by Author Jim Whiting

I'm so pleased to share this guest post by Jim Whiting, prolific author of many non-fiction books for kids.

Like most authors, I read voraciously as a kid. Perhaps unlike many if not most of my colleagues, my reading often leaned heavily toward nonfiction. By the time I was 10, for example, I had devoured a multi-volume history of WWII in the Pacific.

I was so absorbed in the account of the Battle of Okinawa one evening that birds singing startled me. “Why are they singing in the middle of the night?” I wondered. It was dawn. I read the entire night without taking a single break!

While I read my share of fiction today, my love affair with nonfiction continues unabated.

About 15 years ago I turned this love of nonfiction into a career. I’ve taken on topics with which I was already quite familiar. Others have broken totally new personal ground.

I especially like the latter. That’s because the thing that more than anything else rings my chimes about writing nonfiction is the constant learning it entails.

Perhaps the best example is a hip-hop book I wrote several years ago. It was about No Limit Records, founded by Percy Miller, aka Master P. I don’t like hip-hop and never listen to it by choice. So I needed something to grab my interest and provide a way into the material.

As a longtime sports junkie, I found that opening with the knowledge that Master P had been an outstanding basketball player. At the peak of No Limit’s popularity he nearly made the roster of the Toronto Raptors of the NBA.

Snoop Dogg cut several albums for No Limit. Prior to writing the book, I thought Snoop was a wretched thug as a result of reading newspaper headlines and little else. My research revealed that he played high school football. He felt the sport had played a crucial role in his development. So he founded a football program for kids 8–14 with hundreds of participants and underwrote all the costs. He encouraged fathers to become involved with their sons’ teams. I now had a totally unexpected admiration and respect for Snoop Dogg.

The cherry on top of the Snoop Sundae came when I discovered that every year he flies a team of all-stars from his league to the Super Bowl host city. For many if not most of those kids it’s their first time on an airplane. On the day before the big game his team plays the host-city all-stars.

It’s called the Snooper Bowl.

Kids enjoy hearing this story when I tell it during author visits. It also provides a useful teaching moment. I tell them that research can provide an entirely new perspective on something they previously thought to be “true.”

On many occasions, my research turns up a nugget of knowledge that compels me to want to find out more about it. I happily follow internet links to delve more deeply into this new topic. Sometimes I can incorporate my findings into the manuscript I’m working on, sometimes not. But it’s never time wasted, because it adds to my store of knowledge.

I love sharing this knowledge. Like other people who write nonfiction, I consider myself as much of a storyteller as my fiction counterparts, penning lively narratives to pique interest and make my readers want to find out more. The only difference is that my tales are true.




Since Charles Schulz, Bainbridge Island-based Jim Whiting has written more than 180 nonfiction titles for young readers. His ambition is to write a stack of books taller than he is, with the current level at about his collarbone. With nearly 50 more titles in various stages of production, he anticipates reaching his goal by 2017. It’s one of the few times he’s glad that he’s short.

He’s also the leading contributor to the Nonfiction Minute, a free daily fascinating aspect of the world around us that finds its way into thousands of classrooms throughout the country.

He’s also edited more than 400 titles, the majority of them nonfiction. Several of his clients have gone on to garner a variety of honors.


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

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Would Merlin Ever Take a Selfie?

I’ve been thinking this week of Merlin, specifically the Merlin in T.H. White’s The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlin. White’s Merlin walked around with creatures living in his hat and hair--and their droppings. 

So if Merlin were alive today, do you think he’d be taking selfies and posting them on social media? He’d probably go viral—as a laughing-stock. And then be locked up in an institution.
But I suspect Merlin would be indifferent to selfies and the social imperative to be a constantly-connected-cyber-drone. Merlin had kings to train. Voices to hear. Visions to follow in the deep woods. Magic and history to make. Certainly he heard bells ringing all the time, because Merlin was alive from the tips of his toes to the tip of his pointy wizard’s hat. To do all that, he had to be connected to the real world.

I’m not Merlin. But what if I wanted to walk around with wild birds nesting in my hair? I don't know if I could face the consequences.

Have you ever been afraid to live in the way that is most fundamentally yours because it's not hip, fashionable, or (God forbid) current? When that happens, you keep yourself numb. You're afraid to hear the bells ring because they're a sign you need to change something huge. And if you made that change, you wouldn't dare dare post selfies anymore.

On the bright side, you'd probably be too busy being alive to take or post selfies anyway. And you'd certainly be too busy to care. Kings take a lot of managing.



7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on November 10 for a guest post with children's book author Jim Whiting.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Wind Ballet. Review

Last night I used my free ticket to see the Wind Ballet.

Theater: The Field.
Seat: Front Row Center--the Adirondack chair on my deck.
Star: The Full Moon.
Choreographer: The South Wind.
Corps-de-ballet : High Strata of Moving Clouds.
Soloists: Lower Rushing Clouds. 

I settled in to watch. The clouds leaped and whirled around the moon, creating an ever-changing chiaroscuro. Sometimes they hid the moon. Moments later they rushed apart, bedazzling her in golden streamers. The fir trees conducted like a forest of maestros. The bells rang.

The tickets to the Wind Ballet may be free, but they’re extremely hard to get. (Connections in high places might help, try weather gods Horus or Zeus.)

First we need a full moon—so that limits us to twelve possible nights per year. Then we need just the right weather. If the clouds are dense—no show. If the night is clear—no show. If the night is still—no show. (Two layers of wind and clouds are ideal). And, worst of all, if you don’t make the time to go look—you won’t see the show even if there is one.

So last night was the perfect confluence of calendar, weather, and fortitude for one of the most spectacular Wind Ballets ever. I’ve seen only one more spectacular—one night on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, at the Villa Scarpariello Relais on a cliff above the sea. Come to think of it, the Wind Ballet that night was one of the prime inspirations for 7:30 BELLS.


7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on November 10 for a guest post with children's book author Jim Whiting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Moon Over Metal Shed

Everything begins as a glimmer in the dark. All that’s needed is the spark, the light of some luminary—be it a celestial object like the moon, an idea, a startling image, or a numinous connection with our deeper self. Something comes forward from the unknown place.

I’ve trained for this. Part of myself is always watching now, always waiting for the spark. True, sometimes they come without watching—big blazing meteors across the sky. But what about the tiny sparks, you have to coax? The quieter, deeper ones, there and gone like dreams? Often the sparks I breath on gently, fan to flame, and feed, feed, feed, conflagrate into brighter, bluer fires than any flashy meteor.

Sometimes I’m simply walking out to the metal shed at ten p.m. to get a hammer. And then I see something like the moon shining on the metal shed and forget the hammer. Because I know some spark is arriving. Because I know I have only a moment to greet and make it welcome.

7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on November 10 for a guest post with children's book author Jim Whiting

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Ninjas and Flying by Lois Brandt

Lois Brandt is the author of Maddi's Fridge, Winner of the 2015 International Literacy Association Primary Fiction Award. I've lately had the privilege of getting to know her as a friend and colleague and am pleased to share this wonderful guest post. Get ready to fly!


On a school visit last year I read to a group of about thirty kindergarteners. As I was answering questions, a little boy in a black t-shirt raised his hand high in the air. He had pulled the neck of his shirt up to cover his mouth and nose. I thought he was just being shy, so when I called on him I asked him to pull his t-shirt off of his face so I could hear him clearly.

Instead, he raised himself high on his knees, fixed his eyes on mine, and shouted “I AM A NINJA!”

The school librarian was mortified and aides rushed in to have a little chat with our friend. I couldn’t bodily throw myself between the disciplinarians and the ninja, but I thought about it.

I loved that little ninja. I love that ability in kids to ignore reality – no, not ignore it – to change reality. Young children inhabit a space where the imagination rules and the laws of physics don’t apply.

When I was about the same age as the ninja, I flew down our town’s Main Street with a group of my friends. It was lovely. We stuck our arms out wide and whoosh! The four of us soared above the rooftops with a warm breeze in our faces.

The next day at school I eagerly spoke to my friends about our flying adventure. To my huge disappointment all three of them told me that we had not gone flying and I had been dreaming.

I wasn’t convinced. For the next few days, when my mom wasn’t looking, I launched myself off the arm of our couch. After the first splat I put pillows down on the floor, but I still believed. I knew that if I just held my arms in the right position I would fly. Then I would zoom around my house once to show my brothers, who were at this point teasing me mercilessly about my ‘dream,’ how wrong they were. After that I’d soar out of the house, free to fly anywhere in the world.

When my mother caught me jumping off the couch, arms spread-eagle, she calmly sat me down and tried to explain, once again, that flying down Main Street had only been a dream.

There is no “only” in dreams.

It’s been a long time since I flew down Main Street, but the memory of flying under my own power has informed some of the best decisions of my life. Those decisions range from joining the Peace Corps, to learning to kayak, to becoming a writer. (Writing, by the way, is a great way to fly.)

And when adult worries begin to drag me down to earth, what keeps me going, what makes the bells ring for me, is the living example of dreaming big that I see during every school visit. Children, especially kindergarteners, remind me that the only limits in my life are the ones I have built myself.

Long live the ninjas!

Years ago, Lois Brandt peeked into her best friend’s refrigerator and found empty shelves and one small carton of milk; her friend’s family didn’t have enough money to buy food. Maddi’s Fridge, Lois’ first picture book, is the result of that moment. Maddi’s Fridge is the recipient of a 2014 Christopher Award and the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Primary Book Award, among other honors. You can read more about Lois Brandt and Maddi’s Fridge at LoisBrandt.com


7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on November 10 for a guest post with children's book author Jim Whiting.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

7:30 BELLS: A Web of Art

Walking along the river path, I saw this spider web limned in sunlight. How perfect it is, suspended in mid air, the lines attaching it to the birch trees mere flashing silver filaments. How I’d love to create a piece of writing or art this shining, a piece where what is left out is integral to the beauty.

A web is a creation to catch something flying through the air. A story or a piece of art is also a creation to catch something flying, but through our minds.

I hold the hope to make something so beautiful, that someone passing by, who sees it in the right light, is caught. They look. Wonder. And then they go on, changed, carrying what caught them. Some shining silver filament they barely remember stays with them as they walk on down their path. Some faint ringing of the bells. In some small way, the story has become part of them. And they never see the world in quite the same way again.

I would like that so much--to pass along the ringing bells.



7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on October 13 for a guest post with children's book author Lois Brandt.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Maintenance

Dear Gentle Readers,

The bell tower is closed for much needed maintenance this week. I look forward to sharing a new post with you next week, when the bells will ring out again.

Meanwhile, keep ringing!
Dia Calhoun

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

7:30 BELLS: When Light is the Seed

When I looked out my east bedroom window last week, the bird feeder shone like a bell full of light. Yet the bird feeder was empty of what it was supposed to hold—seeds.

And I thought this: You may think that some part of your heart, or spirit, or life is empty because it doesn’t hold what you expected it to hold. Or it doesn’t hold what those around you expected it to hold. But perhaps it’s only waiting for one bright morning to show you it is full—full to bursting—of some food you didn’t expect and never looked for.

Then you open your eyes to the revelation of what’s been overflowing inside you all along. To the revelation that the wild light feeds you more than any sanctioned seeds bought from a store. That the light is the seed.

All you had to do was look out your window on the right morning.





7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on October 13 for a guest post with children's book author Lois Brandt.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Linnea Lentfer

Eleven-year-old Linnea Lentfer is the youngest writer ever to write a 7:30 BELLS Guest Post. Her writing is my favorite kind--deeply embedded in place. See also Lentfer's award-winning Letter About Literature.

Our growing garden, ripening berries, and spawning salmon fade in and out as the globe tilts upon its axis, providing a rhythm to our Southeast Alaskan lives. Having lived through eleven of these cycles I have fallen in love with each season. Even so, one can’t help but have favorites.

Each year, as the fireweed goes to seed, the cranberries hang heavy on their bushes, and the potatoes await harvest, sandhill cranes migrating south with their young rest in the wetlands near our meadow. As we roust spuds from the dirt we are treated to a concert, the high whistling chirp of the babies intermingling with the melodic chortle of their parents.

The voices of these cranes have stirred something deep within my soul ever since I was two. As I toddled about the garden decked out in baby fat and raingear, the cranes flapped into view. When their voices first reached my ears l pointed a pudgy finger to the sky and said “Look Mama, cranes!”

Why is it, I wonder, that out of the whistles, croaks, and gurgles I hear every day, the sound of cranes, which I hear just a few weeks a year, rings so deeply in my heart? Maybe it’s simply the time of year they come, when I’m already filled to the brim with gratitude from the harvest and the cranes put me over the top. Maybe it’s just the cranes’ story. Their ancestors’ voices, identical to the ones I hear today, rang across North America when it was covered in three toed horses and hippos, ten million years ago. Maybe it’s the sound alone that attracts me. The unique gurgling crrrrr of a thousand voices, so mesmerizing that it still rings in my ears when the cranes are out of sight.

Whatever the answer, when the harvest is finished and our summer’s work is a gorgeous mountain of vegetables, the joy of my happily aching arms and tired feet is topped by the flight of cranes. A bell within me that has been silenced to a memory since last fall rings again.


Linnea Lentfer has lived all of her eleven years in Gustavus Alaska with the critical habitat area for migrating cranes just outside her front door. She has just begun her first year of homeschooling which she enjoys immensely and is looking forward to the new opportunities it will give her. In addition to writing she likes to spend her free time playing the fiddle and reading but most of all time outdoors (preferably barefoot) in the beautiful place she is fortunate enough to call home.

7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on October 13 for a guest post with children's book author Lois Brandt.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Announcing "Fall Bells"--7:30 BELLS Guest Bloggers for Fall

I'm so pleased to share the "Fall Bells," the 7:30 BELLS Guest Post Bloggers for this fall. 
Find their posts on the second Tuesday of each month.

Linnea Lentfer
September 8

Eleven-year-old Linnea Lentfer is the youngest person to guest post on 7:30 BELLS. Lentfer's letter for The Center for the Book's (Library of Congress) national contest for students, Letters About Literature, won first place for Alaska in Level one.


Lois Brandt
October 13

Lois Brandt's picture book, Maddi's Fridge, won the 2014 Christopher Award, and has been nominated for many others. Brandt has also published work in Highlights, Pockets, and Sparkle Magazines.


Jim Whiting
November 10

Jim Whiting has written over 170 non-fiction books for children on a wide-ranging subjects from Vivaldi to Black Holes. He's also a running coach and magazine editor.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Linnea Lentfer's Letter: Alaska Winner

Below is Linnea Lentfer's beautiful letter for The Center for the Book's (Library of Congress) national contest for students, Letters About Literature. It describes how she was transformed by Eva of the Farm, my middle grade novel. Linnea's letter won first place for Alaska for Level One. Linnea writes so vividly. I'm sure we'll all be reading her novels one day.

Dear Dia Calhoun,

In my first 10 years of life I had always considered a loss, a loss.I could find nothing good out of it. A fear was something I would avoid, not face.

I come from a family of hunters. Each year we go to a small cabin on an island and spend the days walking slowly through the beauty of the Southeast Alaskan old growth forest. From this we not only take in beauty but also we take the lives of what I believe to be the most graceful and peaceful of animals on Earth. The Sitka black-tailed deer.

Every time I heard the rifle go off and watched the deer fall it always seemed that the spiraling piece of lead had shattered my heart not the deer’s. As we knelt alongside the still-warm animal my tears left wet marks on the dark, velvety fur.

Through all the years of hunting, I’ve struggled to make peace in my mind between the beauty of the hunt and taking the deer’s life. Reading your book Eva of the Farm was a big step.

As I read, I found Eva’s love for her farm and her friend like my love for the woods and the deer. Her sense of loss for her friend and possibly her home was like mine. I was able to relate so well with Eva in the beginning that as she made peace with her troubles so did I.

Now, as I walk up to a deer the tears falling are not of sorrow, they are of gratitude, to be able to live where I do and experience the bittersweet beauty of hunting.

Sincerely,
Linnea Rain Lentfer, grade 5

Thank you so much, Linnea, for writing this beautiful letter to me. It touched my heart. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Crystal Heart

Sometimes the joy of being alive is simple, so simple, just these: mountains, sun, time with someone you love. Such was this day I spent with my husband on Crystal Mountain in the Cascades.

Up and up we rode the heart-stopping gondola--a staggering 6,800 feet--to a view ringed with mountains. It was like standing inside an immense crown. To the west, shown the crown jewel of Mt. Rainier (pictured). To the south glimmered Mt. Adams and Mt. Saint Helens. Teasing in and out of the clouds in the north, Mount Baker and Glacier Peak. And receding eastward were foothills that in any other place would be called mountains.

Together we hiked. Ate ice cream bars. Sat on a cliff and stared amazed at the grandeur before us. Nothing more was needed. Nothing more wanted. My heart became the mountain--a crystal bell ringing clear, ringing bright.


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

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

7:30 BELLS: The Imaginative Abundance of Scheherazade

What do you do when a metanoia—a revelatory transformation of the heart—changes your whole way of being in the world? I don’t know.

My metanoia is this: I no longer care if the world sees me or my work, only that I see the world, because that's what makes me and my work most vibrantly alive. 

This revelation didn’t fall like a lightning bolt, but has grown over the past year. It crystallized when I heard writer friends talking about the number of books they hoped to publish during their careers—eight, fifteen, thirty, etc. As they talked, I was surprised to realize I no longer cared about how many books I publish or write. 


I only want to write the truth of whatever unique offering I have, be it one book, one poem, one line. Should someone wanted to publish or read my work--wonderful! But that’s no longer essential to me. Perilous thoughts, these, for an author’s career.

I expect the ramifications will be immense. But consider this line by poet Jane Hirshfield, from her book, The Seven Gates: “Scheherazade’s salvation, not unlike Dante’s, is accomplished by abundance and imagination.” Scheherazade used her imaginative abundance to stay alive, to live one more day, to ring with stories. I take comfort from that, because the more I participate with what brings me most alive, the more imaginative abundance I have.

Where will all this lead? What will happen to my writing career? All I know is I’m grateful to be stumbling about in this new way. It's amazing. Not only is this the best way for me to be alive in the world, it’s also the best way for me to make my best contribution to the world.


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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Hark! How the Bells by author L.L. Owens

I'm so pleased to share this month's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by the ever-original  author for kids, L.L. Owens.

Invite a writer to muse on what, exactly, makes her feel alive — on the thing that makes the bells ring — and I can all but guarantee you’ll receive the resounding reply, “Yes, please!”

Now, I’ve enjoyed my share of resonant THIS-is-life moments, so I jotted down some memorable examples:

· successfully holding my breath underwater and coming up for air that first time

· devouring Wind in the Willows in my childhood closet

· nailing Mozart’s “Rondo alla Turca” during a long-ago piano recital

· viewing Charlotte Brontë’s original manuscript of Jane Eyre

· gasping at the view of Maui’s Haleakalā at sunrise

· marveling at jazz great Dave Brubeck’s stunning live performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

· falling permanently in love at hundredth sight

· writing my first-ever professionally published piece (the bells rang for me from start to finish)

· seeing a baby’s heartbeat on an ultrasound

· sharing a hilarious private joke with a total stranger

· thrilling at the sight of a hummingbird finding the feeder one minute after I set it up

· receiving a sign from a dearly departed loved one that I was on the right path

· clicking with a new friend I’ve clearly known, on some level, forever

· reaching the “A-ha!” after struggling to determine what my WIP’s main character really wanted

Perhaps you can relate. As varied in scope and import as these experiences are, each one has produced in me a flash of emotion strong enough to make it seem like nothing exists beyond whatever I’m seeing, hearing, doing, or being. I can’t tell you why such moments happen, but every time one occurs, I wake up to life. (Often, a ginormous goofy grin is involved.) I feel connected to my truest self — and to the world around me — in a brand-new way that’s, somehow, not new at all.

Then I’m reminded that there’s so much wonder to behold in the universe, if only I can stay open to it. Invariably, I’m inspired to reset my intentions . . . whether for the next minute, or the rest of my life.

I can’t predict when I’ll hear the ringing or the clanging or the tinkling of a bell. But when I do, I try to act on the phenomenon while I can still access its reverberations. For me that means continuing to work on living my most authentic life.

You might have noticed that some items on my list resulted from big life decisions, while others sprang from more mundane everyday tasks. All the instigating actions, though, were no-brainers for me. Which means that simply responding to what I’m most drawn to and acting on my deepest instincts has led to some pretty darned incredible moments I could never have predicted or manufactured — and that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

I’ve learned this lesson the hard way many times over. And I expect to learn it again, and again, as the future unfolds.

Lucky me! 


Lisa L. Owens is the author of 85+ titles for young readers and has published everything from picture books to middle-grade fiction to YA biography. She works from her home near Seattle, where she always has several projects and a pot of strong coffee brewing.

Author site: llowens.com
Blog: llowens.blogspot.com
Twitter: @LisaLOwens


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

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

730 BELLS: Night Sisters

Last night I sat talking with one of my sisters in the wisteria arbor. For the first time since moving here, I lit candles in the lantern holders. We listened to the waterfall in the koi pond. Listened to the river, to the wind--all of them speaking the deep truth of the world.

After a golden moon rose, my sister spoke a terrible truth. One that needed to be said. One that I’d long felt, but hadn't been able to voice even to myself. And when she spoke the truth, the bells clanged me alive in sudden, sharp shock. I felt a wild joy because this terrible truth was finally spoken. 
Out into the world it went, joining the true night voices of the waterfall, river, and wind.

Yes, it was a terrible truth. But it wasn't terrible to speak the truth. It was courageous and right.

I’m not certain why this moment made me feel so alive. Perhaps it was because something buried was freed, and more, was shared with someone who felt the same way. Such moments come seldom, and only with someone to who you have a long, deep connection.

My gratitude goes out to all my sisters. May I be as courageous and strong as they are.



7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on August 13 for a guest post with children's book author L.L. Owens.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

7:30 BELLS: The Best of the Bells: Our Patina Makes Us Beautiful

In celebration of my wonderful father's 92nd birthday, I want to re-post this blog from 4-29-14.  And I will only add, I'm so glad he is still here. He's one of the most beautiful people I know.

When I passed this tree, cut down by a chain saw, its ragged beauty snagged my attention. In death, the tree bares its wounded heart to the world. Tears of sap have hardened into lacey veil. 

The dead, the fallen, the wounded, the ragged imperfect—we don’t usually consider them beautiful. But there is much to be found in them. Mary Oliver expresses this well in these lines excerpted from her poem, Whelks:

“but each morning on the wide shore / I pass what is perfect and shining / to look for whelks, whose edges / have rubbed so long against the world / they have snapped and crumbled—” Mary Oliver  

This week I heard someone say—with some shame—that they are repulsed by very old people. By their wrinkles, their sagging flesh, their “decrepitude.” How sad. How tragic that American culture embraces only the “perfect and shining.” Youth. The air-brushed makeover. The new, new, forever new.

I think patina is beautiful. Patina—a surface that has formed over something, such as green color on a bronze bell, that comes from age, long exposure to weather, or from being used for many years. When I am old, I hope people will look at me and see the richness of my patina . I hope they can still hear the reverberating rings from a long and vibrant life.

LORE OF THE BELL

The patina on the bell celebrates
a life filled with ringing


7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.


7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on August 13 for a guest post with children's book author L.L. Owens.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

730 BELLS: The Blue Bells of Morning: Embrace What You Love Now

Chicory. Yes, it’s definitely a coffee substitute. Especially if you wake up to it blooming blue in your meadow. These flowers only bloom in the morning.

I, however, am not a morning person. I’m not usually awake enough to think about bells in the morning. But when I walk out to greet the chicory in the meadow, the brilliant blue joy of them rings me wide awake. It’s better than coffee.

Last month I wrote about the daisies in the meadow—luminous and mysterious by moonlight, bold and daring by sunlight. As everything here on the river is new to me, I didn’t know the daisies wouldn’t bloom all summer. When their season passed, I mourned.

Then—what consolation!—the chicory bloomed. So now, with no clue as to the length of their season, I take care to greet them each morning. Whatever you may value—flowers, people, strength, a creative fire--embrace it while it’s here.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on August 11 for a guest post with children's book author, L.L. Owens.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Author Trudi Trueit

I'm so pleased to share this 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by Trudi Trueit, a fellow Pacific Northwest children's author.


Growing up in the shadow of Mount Rainier in Washington state, I could hardly wait for our annual family trek to the 14,400-foot peak. My parents, brother, sister and I would spend the day hiking the easy trails, feeding bread crumbs to the friendly chipmunks, and admiring the spectacular vistas. As a girl, I can remember standing in a windswept meadow of wildflowers. Gazing up at the majestic, snow-kissed peak, I felt joy pulse through my veins. I felt the bells ring within me. There, in that heavenly realm, I felt alive. At peace. At home.

Yet . . . as much as I have always had a kinship with mountains, it is not an easy journey for me. I am uncomfortable in high places. Okay, I’ll just say it. I’m scared of heights. I could give you plenty of reasons: I have poor vision and get dizzy when I have to see distance and once I was trapped on a rickety ski lift at Idaho’s Schweitzer Mountain at sunset. Yet, reasons are excuses for not moving forward. So what do I to get to my beloved mountains? I swallow my fear and get on that chairlift for a heart-pounding, sweat-inducing ride to the top. As I dangle from the thin wire a hundred feet above the ground, I tell myself everything will be okay once I reach the summit. And it is. It always is. All of my fears, doubts, and struggles fall away and all that remains is triumph.

I’ve had many similar ‘mountains’ in my life. Of course, courage is only one aspect of overcoming a fear. You can ‘gut it out’ for some things, but for most goals, you have to lay a foundation. Bravery without preparation will not take you far. When I was in middle school, I was fairly certain I wanted to be a journalist, but I was a shy girl. I knew this was going to be a problem, unless I dealt with it. I wasn’t sure my timidity was a mountain I could climb on my own, so I took a debate class in high school. I learned to write a coherent argument, to craft a persuasive speech, and to speak confidently in public without my knees knocking. To my surprise, I fell in love with debating and it opened the door for me to become a television news reporter and, in time, a children’s author, who happily speaks to student groups of all sizes.

Mountains, whether they be physical or metaphorical, are necessary. They test us. They teach us. They remind us reaching any great pinnacle requires fortitude and perseverance. This summer, I’ll be heading to one of my favorite destinations, Whistler B.C. I’ll summon my courage and get on that phone-booth of a gondola, holding my breath (and hopefully, my lunch) all the way to the top. Then, standing above the world, I’ll jump up to tap the wispy clouds and revel that, once again, I made it. Everything I will go through to get there will be worth it. It always is, you know.





Trudi Trueit knew she’d found her life’s passion after writing (and directing) her first play in the fourth grade. Since then, she’s been a newspaper journalist, television news reporter and anchor, and freelance writer, but her favorite career is what she does now—writing for kids and tweens. She’s published more than 90 fiction and nonfiction titles for young readers, including Stealing Popular (Aladdin MIX) and the Secrets of a Lab Rat series (Aladdin). Look for her new title for tweens, The Sister Solution (Aladdin MIX), this fall. Visit her website at www.truditrueit.com.


Photos by Bill Trueit.



7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on August 11 for a guest post with children's book author, L.L. Owens.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Sharing the Tree and Me

Sometimes, there's simply a moment, one moment when the season is right, the light is right, your attention is right, and you behold something wonderful. That moment came yesterday afternoon in the hammock, when the shadow of this cedar tree aligned with mine. I seemed to be the tree, with gentle branch fingers. I stretched out my own hand. Then the tree seemed to be me.

Usually I want to fully inhabit a ringing moment like this. Usually I do. But this time, knowing such a unique convergence might not happen again, I reached for my camera. This was a moment to share. And sometimes, that urge to share the wonder makes the most beautiful ringing sound of all.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on July 14 for a guest post with children's book author, Trudi Trueit.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Sunlight and Moonlight

In the field southeast of our house, daisies grow wild. Last night as I walked through them in the moonlight they shone—luminous, white-skirted, acres of them kicking up a can-can in the windy moonlight.

Enchanting, yes. Bells, bells, and more bells.

Then, the next morning, I walked through the field in the sunlight. Dazzling, bright, the daisies still kicked up their skirts in the wind, but now I saw their golden hearts revealed.


There’s a time to be luminous and mysterious. A time to be bright, bold, and flash your heart at the world. Sunlight and moonlight together, two things we never see at the same time, create the whole story. Look and keep looking, at every hour, in every light, for parts of yourself you can’t see all at once. Then knit them together in the wind to see your whole rich story.


7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on July 14 for a guest post with children's book author, Trudi Trueit.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Make a Secret Place


Secret, secluded places—like this bench under the little red maple—always make the bells ring for me. Why? Because they’re an invitation to step away from my usual world. An invitation to enter a place of reflection. An invitation to enter a mystery.

I placed this bench, facing the river, under the little red maple. I made a place that I knew would invite me into the state of mind I want. We need to find or make such places in our lives. For some people it’s the inside of a church or cathedral. For some, a library corner. For others, mountains. If you don’t have a river, fill a beautiful vase with branches and set it in the window under changing light. Place a chair in the right place and just watch.

Once you have found or made a place in your life that holds the invitation to mystery, make regular time to be there. Reflection, creativity, meditation are practices, disciplines that brings great rewards. Musicians practice. Dancers practice. Doctors practice. Scientists practice. I know I need to practice putting myself into the place of mystery.

So find your bench. Make your place to enter mystery. And then do it.




7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on July 14 for a guest post with children's book author, Trudi Trueit.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: The Art of Waiting by Author Helen Landalf

I'm so pleased to share this month's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by Helen Landalf, author of books for children and teens. 

My husband loves to photograph birds. He leaves the house in the early hours of morning to find a spot at the beach, by a lake or under the cherry tree in our backyard. He waits, camera in hand, until a warbling call alerts him or a flash of movement catches his eye. Then he lifts his lens to frame the sky, hoping to capture the perfect moment when an eagle or heron, a blue jay or sparrow, spreads its wings and takes flight.

Some days he is successful, and his camera brims with images of soaring birds. Other times, he comes home empty-handed. But even when he has nothing tangible to show, he’s satisfied in knowing that he has practiced his art. He was there, camera ready, waiting.

I, on the other hand, tend to approach my creative work as a task to be accomplished. I hunch over my laptop, worshipping the god of productivity: this word count must be met, that chapter must be completed. Even on days that refuse me the gift of ringing bells or fluttering wings, I force my ideas onto the page, and a writing session that produces no progress can send me into a spiral of despair.

But I am learning from my husband. Instead of pushing, I’ve begun to wait for a flicker of inspiration to dance, like a bird, on the edges of my consciousness. I’m careful not to move too quickly, for fear it will fly away. With patience, it ventures closer, perhaps rewarding me with a chirp or two. If I sit long enough in silence, the bird warbles and the bells begin to chime – faintly, at first. But when I continue to hold my mind open, the bells peal, the bird bursts into song, and my heart soars as I catch my story in flight.

The true art is in simply being there, receptive.


Helen Landalf is author of the YA novel FLYAWAY (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), as well as two picture books and five nonfiction books for teachers. When she’s not writing, she teaches dance and Pilates and hosts international students in her home. On weekends, she often goes bird watching with her husband, Steven.





7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on July 14 for a guest post with children's book author, Trudi Trueit


Friday, June 5, 2015

Announcing this Summer's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post Authors

I'm so pleased to announce a wonderful line up of 7:30 BELLS Guest Post authors. Join us here on the second Tuesday of each month to learn what makes them feel alive, what makes them ring and resonate.


June 9, 2015
Author of books for teachers, children, and her first teen novel, 
FLYAWAY, is out now.

July 14, 2015
Author of 94 books for kids, 
including her middle grade novel, STEALING POPULAR.

August 11, 2015
Author of 84 books and stories for young people,
including the middle grade nonfiction, THE GREAT CHICAGO FIRE.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Make Sparks fly up from Obstacles in Your Path

In late afternoon, when the light slants on a big boulder just under the river, the flowing water turns molten--like a stream of black glass. Sparks fly up, as though fireflies dance on the black glass. This made the bells ring for me not only because it was beautiful sight, but also because of my recent reading about consciousness and unconsciousness.

Our conscious mind is only the tip of the iceberg. Without our knowing, our unconscious mind makes many decisions for us. (Hardly surprising, I suppose as consciousness is the new kid on the block. Like the body, the psyche also has an evolutionary history.) So the more we can make conscious, the more we can understand about our whole self, the better off we will be.

So how do we make more of our mind conscious? There are many ways, art, dreams, meditation, but the afternoon slant of light on the river suggests one clue. The river is like our unconscious, dark, ever-flowing, submerged. Only when the river bumps over the boulder--the obstacle in its path--does the water turn molten black and create sparks of light on top. 

Could the same be true for us? Does our collision with the obstacles in our lives bring more to light, more to consciousness? Does it help us understand more about ourselves, others, and our world?

The next time you encounter a boulder in your path, perhaps it's an opportunity for discovery. Make the sparks fly up from whatever impedes you.



7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on July 14 for a guest post with children's book author, Trudi Trueit

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

7:30 BELLS:When Surrendering is Power: Cottonwood Seeds


I stepped outside this twentieth day of May into snow—a foot high drift of cottonwood seeds piled against the door. White, downy fluff danced in whirlwinds. Snagged on the bushes. Starred the meadow grass.

I’d never seen a cottonwood seed blizzard before. My first thought—what fun. My second thought—get the broom. But sweeping simply urged the cottonwood seeds into greater frenzy or spun them into incorrigible strands. Meanwhile, more and more fell from the sky.

So there I was, wielding the broom this way and that, until I stopped, struck by the ridiculous. I laughed at my absurd need to control something beyond my control.  And something so unimportant. So what if cottonwood seeds blew into my house? So what if they stuck to my shoes? Who wouldn’t want to wade through magic?

So I surrendered. I threw down the broom and danced with the seeds. 


7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

730 BELLS Ignorant of the Night.

I am ignorant of the night. In the city where I lived for twenty-three years, it dangerous to wander in the night. And when I visited the country, the Farm in the Methow Valley, it was too wild to wander at night all alone on a hundred acres. 

But Goldilocks found the middle chair that was “just right.” So here on our three acres on the Nisqually River, I’ve found a safe place to walk alone at night. And I’ve discovered so much. Nights are as different from each other as days—some serene, some brooding, some tumultuous. Best of all, nights here are quiet of human noise. Only wind in the trees, the humming river, the croaking frogs, the singing stars. Reflection and meditation come easily.

I used to go to bed thinking of everything I didn’t get done. My night walks have changed that, a pause button to the day's busyness. Now I have a sense of space, of waiting, even promise. Just as light has its negative qualities—drought, burning, blinding—so darkness has its positive qualities.

After one week of night walks, I dreamed I met a wild black horse in the night. I threw my arm around its neck and we strode away, side by side, into the night. 

Last night when I went to bed, I looked at the fabric serving as a temporary window curtain. A dear friend brought to to me from Japan some thirty years ago. A dark crane flies up, silhouetted against light coming from outside. A dark crane ascending into the night.

Where will they led me, the dark crane and the black horse?

For the first time, I am learning to hear bells in the night.


7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post:: "Risk is When the Bells Chime Loudest" by author Margery Cuyler

Following is a wonderful post from author and legendary children's book editor Margery Cuyler.  I had the high honor of having worked with her on several of my  fantasy novels. 

I hear bells chiming when I experience what I like to refer to as a “mandorla” experience. Mandorla is the Italian word for “almond,” and the almond shape has been interpreted by Carl Jung, Robert Johnson, and other psychologists as a symbol for the overlap of two contrasting, opposing forces that occur simultaneously. When one finds oneself standing in the center of the overlap or mandorla, one feels extreme tension, but . . . that tension of the opposites can lead to transformation and renewal. One can sense that God is present in those moments of suffering, and if one is patient, if one prays and trusts, the solution will usually emerge. 

This mandorla experience has happened every time I’ve been at a crossroads in my life: to leave or not leave a loved one who provides a safety net, to go from being single to being married, to become a mother of three even while working full time, to change jobs when a new job opportunity challenges one’s comfort level, and so on. These mandorlas that punctuate life involve risk. But risk is when the bells chime the loudest! 

 And how about the mandorla experience in a writer’s life? For me, I decided recently to leave the safe haven of writing picture books, which have defined me as an author, to writing a YA (still in progress). As I wobble into the territory of character development, I am discovering that my characters have to experience the mandorla. What is at stake for them? How do they experience two different emotions at once? What causes them to change? The mandorla is a writer’s place. Don’t all writers try to make sense of the fragmented world in which we live? Don’t our characters long for a place where they can finally settle and experience unity? Can I, as a fiction writer, reach that place of synthesis by the end of a manuscript? 

Great writers have accomplished such leaps as they’ve united the beauty and the terror of existence. Their talent and psychological insight, their characters’ verisimilitude, can surprise and shock--can teach that the tension of opposites, the mandorla experience, is the stuff of good writing. I may never get there, but at least I’m exploring new literary territory, and that’s exciting!



Margery Cuyler has been part of the children’s book field for the past 45 years. Aside from holding executive positions at Holiday House, Golden Books Family Entertainment, Macmillan, Marshall Cavendish, and Amazon Children’s Publishing, she has written 49 children’s books and has a 50th book under contract with Random House. She retired from full-time publishing at the end of 2013 and is currently consulting, writing, and doing school visits. She and her husband, the parents of two grown sons, live in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Margery also has a stepdaughter who paints pets for a living. They are really cool. For more information about Margery, visit www.margerycuyler.com


7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.



Tuesday, May 5, 2015

7:30 BELLS: A Cup Overflowing With Trees

At my old house in Tacoma, I spent wonderful “creative drift” hours watching the cherry tree outside my bedroom window. Poems, ideas, and stories came to me there. So, now that I’m living on the Nisqually River, I wondered what kind of “creative drift” hours I’d have from my new bedroom window. The window frames Douglas fir trees. So far, with the exigencies of moving, there hasn’t been much time for creative anything.

But last night, I opened my eyes and saw my cup on the bedside table. The cup was black, silhouetted by the moonlight coming through the window. The fir trees were silhouetted too, a few branches swaying. This was the first full moon since we moved here.

As I watched, laying on my side, the trees seemed to be growing out of the cup. And I wondered. If I drank from my cup, would I drink in the trees? I’ve been so thirsty for trees, and now my cup, my life, overflows with them. What would happen if I drank trees?

And so I sat up. And so I drank.  Now let’s wait and see what happens. 

But already, I feel a little taller this morning.


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 28, 2015

730 BELLS: Immanent Fingers

Every day here on the Nisqually River is new, my eyes are fresh, looking at everything with wonder. Like this red maple along the Nisqually River. The new leaves have five fingers, like a human hand. The ruffled edges so exquisite, so elegant.

Then I notice the older leaves have seven fingers—two, small extra ones, like little wings, sprouting near the stem. I smile, thinking how my father always told us that one day wings would grow from our shoulder blades nubbins. 

I wonder about human potential. Wonder if our hands, too, can grow extra fingers, invisible fingers that sense and wing us into the immanent world around us in ways our visible fingers can’t. I wonder how to grow these extra fingers. 


Keep looking. Keep ringing.



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.