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.

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:
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.