Friday, December 23, 2016

The Three Little Trumpigs and The Big Bad Wall

Once upon a dastardly time, three fat little trumpigs ruled a good, green country. But in the world outside, a terrible storm blew. People crept to the country’s border, looking for shelter. 

The three little trumpigs didn’t like this one bit. Late one night, they tweeted, “Let’s build a big bad wall to keep them out!” So they snortled and chortled and built a wall of lies.

“Little trumpigs, little trumpigs,” the poor people cried, “please let us in!”

The three little trumpigs grinned. “Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins!”

But Lady Liberty heard the cries and raised her torch. “I’ll shine, and I’ll shine, and I’ll burn that wall down!” And—poof! she did.

The three little trumpigs didn’t like that one bit. They tweeted, “Let’s build a bigger, badder wall!” And they snortled and chortled and built a wall of power. It was fifty tanks wide and fifty generals high.

“Little trumpigs, little trumpigs,” the poor people cried, “please let us in!”

The three little trumpigs grinned. “Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins!”

Again Lady Liberty heard the people cry. She raised her torch. “I’ll shine, and I’ll shine, and I’ll burn that wall down!” And—poof! she did.

The three little trumpigs threw a tweet tantrum. “Lady Liberty is a disaster,” they screamed. “Let’s build the biggest, baddest wall ever!” So they snortled and chortled and built a wall of hate.

“Little trumpigs, little trumpigs,” the poor people cried, “please let us in!”

The three little trumpigs grinned. “Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins!” 

Again, Lady Liberty heard the poor people cry. But when she saw the towering wall of hate, her torch flickered. And Lady Liberty began to fall.

The people of the good, green country ran out of their houses. Brown people, black people, white people, and every color of people in-between. They all joined hands around Lady Liberty.

“Mother of Exiles,” they said, “once we were the homeless, tempest-tossed. You took us in—your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Our hearts will hold you up!” 

Lady Liberty stood tall again. Her torch shone brighter than ever. She and the people called to the three little trumpigs jumping on the wall. “Together we’ll shine, and we’ll shine, and we’ll burn that wall down!” And—poof! together they did. 

And late that night, all the people of that good, green country—the new arrivals and the old—feasted together on three fat, little roasted trumpigs.

--Dia Calhoun 

Note: I've always kept my personal political opinions separate from my literary work for children. But given the current political climate in the world, I need to use whatever power my pen has to speak out and speak up.

The Three Little Trumpigs and The Big Bad Wall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License Feel free to share it as much as you wish, so long as you credit me and link to this page. But do not sell it, or change it in any way without my permission. Thank you.

Some of the phrases in The Three Little Trumpigs and The Big Bad Wall were derived from the the poem on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus.  

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land,
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Shows world-wide welcome: her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands you storied pomp!” cries she
with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.

Lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

--Emma Lazarus

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Hurtling Toward the Darkest Day

With the world hurtling toward the darkest day of the year, and the growing political crisis hurtling toward authoritarianism and oligarchy, I find comfort in reflecting on the positive potential of darkness.

Consider these quotes:

"Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding." --Lao Tzu

"Darkness gives birth to light." --C.G. Jung

 "And we must extinguish the candle, put out the light and relight it;
Forever must quench, forever relight the flame." --T.S. Eliot

 In fairy tales, the dark figure or event is often the catalyst for pushing the hero/ine to develop the fullness of his/her powers and gifts.  I recommend Marie Louise von Franz's book, Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales, revised edition.

May we all bring light from the darkness.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

7:30 BELLS: The Blur of Morning Becomes Meaning.

The blur of morning is ground fog steaming from the fields
the night time dreamworld transitioning into the waking world. With my first cup of coffee or my first step outside, the sun bursts like a bloom through the mist into the rising of the day. And there in my front yard is my path before me. My own path, with all its shadows and its gleaming, to be reckoned with.

The outside world usually becomes a metaphor for my inner world, and vice a versa. When I make such connections of meaning in moments like these, I feel alive. Meaning is everywhere. You just have to take the time to see it.

So I do. Because what's more important than feeling alive? Feeling alive is having an experience of meaning, whether emotional, spiritual, physical, or intellectual. I can have that feeling of being alive if I watch for it. And the more I do, like any practice, the more my life becomes a series of such moments of feeling alive.

This is similar to the practice of mindfulness, of being aware of the moment. But for me, it’s more like finding a way to experience aliveness in any moment by watching for meaning. If I do—all the moments of my life—whether waiting in line at Costco, or walking the river trail—all moments of my life have value. Because all of them make me ring, resonate, and feel alive.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Nightingale in the Mosque

" . . . unless the nightingale sings in the mosque, prayer is of no use." --Marie Louise von Franz

I love this comment von Franz made in her commentary on the fairy tale The Nightingale Gisar. You can find that on page 179 of her book Individuation in Fairy Tales. And, I might add after mosque, the temple, the church, the heart, the Self...

As I sit nursing my bronchitis, staring out at the green wood, I'll muse on that line like a melody.

I hope to be back with more 7:30 BELLS next week.

Meanwhile, may you be well--and listen for the nightingale!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Stack of Butter, Stack of Books

When I was ten to twelve years old, sometimes I'd go with my Dad to his shop on Capitol Hill in Seattle. I'd hang out there until my ballet lesson at Cornish. He'd give me a dollar, and I'd walk around the corner to a cafe. As soon as the waitress saw me coming, she'd yell back to the cook, "Stack of Butter!" Those three beautiful words meant toast.

I sat at the counter under her watchful eye and pulled out my book. Toast and a good book--what more could you want? I've always loved to eat while I read. Kids today are glued to their phones during meals. I was glued to my book. (Now some would say this is not "mindful" eating. I would say their is more to the experience of eating than the food that goes into your mouth.)

So in this holiday time of delicious foods, I ask you this: What book would you read at Thanksgiving dinner (if your parents or spouse or family would let you!) and why? Or perhaps break your meal and books into courses, like pairing wine with food. What book would you read with the stuffing? Which with the pumpkin pie?

This would be a fun assignment for kids.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving surrounded by everything you love--family, food, and books of course,


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Then and Now, and Still The Same

For twenty years, this was the tiny view I had from the writing window of my house on Tacoma. On December 12, 2012 I posted this poem about it:

A Room With No View

If you see only rooftops—
christen each shingle.

If you see only crows—
tickle their feathers.

If you see only wires—
join their crackling gossip.

If you see only clouds—
ask where they’ve been.

If you see only cages—
slide down the light on the bars,
and you will be free.

Dia Calhoun 12/2012

Where we live now on the Nisqually, we just had these windows and doors (trim covering!) installed. Now I have a room with a big view. This is my backyard. The light through the trees is where the river runs. And I love it.

But I'm still cultivating the same attitude expressed in the poem. Because I believe that if your inner view is large enough, even a room with no window will look out upon immensity.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Trailing in the River

An alder tree, bare now of leaves, leans out over the river--swift and deep in November. But only one branch trails in the current. It reminds me of a swimmer dipping in a toe to test the water.

This makes me think of myself. I’m leaning toward the river, too. Each night I enter it when I dream. Each morning, awake, I trail one finger, trying to remember the dreams. Like the branch on the tree, my reach is shallow compared to the depth of the river.

Now the trailing branch catches a leaf. Sometimes I catch one luminous symbol rising toward the surface and turn it in my grateful, wondering hands.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

7:30 BELLS: When You Love Enough to Change Your Skin

Have you ever heard of a corn frog? I haven’t. But we found this frog in our corn patch. There aren’t any other corn patches nearby. So either this frog took an incredible journey, or he’s a chameleon, able to adapt the color of his skin to his surroundings. Looks quite at home, doesn’t he?

The chameleon gift is supposed to be a survival mechanism. Maybe so. But I think this frog loved the corn patch so much, he became as much a part of it as he could. Like me in my green shoes. I love the woods so much, I’m becoming part of it.

For more on the story of the green shoes--how a dream in the night turned into a real pair of shoes--and for ideas on working with your dreams, read the Creative Conversations interview I had with author Janet Lee Carey on her blog.

Meanwhile, consider this: what do you love so much you’d change your skin to be part of it?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Rain: Embodied in the World

Record rain fell here in October. When I embrace the rain as an element, I can find its magic. I did today when I walked down the river trail. The rain softened the woods—the grey Douglas Fir trunks, the branches gloved in lichen green, the rushing water. And the rain brightened the woods, too. Wet golden maple leaves shone on the ground. Black rocks shone in the river.

The rain became embodied in the world. I want to live like that. I’ve begun to think about and practice being fully embodied in the world. That means living less from my head. It means being more aware of everything around me, and how my senses, my skin, and my moving body experience it. Like the softness and shine of rain.

The more I walk through the world fully embodied, the more  of it I can hold. And the steadier the bells ring.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Turning Windows into Doors

So much of our view of life depends on our windows. If our windows are in the wrong place, or too small, we miss so much. All of us are born into a house with the windows already in place. A house constructed by our family background, our culture, our education, and our religion. This "prefabrication" makes it hard to move the windows because we may not even realize a different view is possible.

We may feel pinched and uneasy, or sense that something is missing or wrong. The first sign may be that we can’t hear any bells ring through these windows. We don't feel fully alive.

So ask, "what am I missing?" Am I looking at the world squeezed through someone else’s determination of what I should see? Sometimes, to move the window, you start by tearing down the old walls.

When we move the windows or make them bigger, new light pours in. Windows can even turn into doors.

And we can hear the bells ring out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

7:30 BELLS: After the Wind, a Presence

This morning I had a resonating experience on the river trail. I was surveying our damage from the typhoon remnant that blasted the Pacific Northwest this weekend. The Nisqually River Valley funnels big winds. During the storm, I held my breath several times, hoping the trees stayed in the air. They did—except one across the river. The apocalyptic forecast didn’t materialize—here.

As I dragged fallen branches off the trail, I heard a flock of birds crying. Most of the birds had already left for the winter. I looked up. Hundreds of sparrows fluttered and flapped in a big Douglas Fir. 

And then I saw why.

An owl perched on a branch, same gray-brown as the tree. Only white spots gave it away. And the owl was looking straight down at me. 

What a face! What an enormous face. He was a winged head. I’ve heard owls hoot here at night but have never seen one. Had the storm brought him out? Or had it brought me out to meet him?

We considered each other soberly, steadily—me looking up, the owl looking down. I was being measured in ways I couldn’t fathom. Would never fathom. That quality of fixed attention —for the first time I understood why owls are associated with wisdom. I understood this not from a book, or picture, or video, but from vivid experience.

This elemental way of experience the world so often eludes us. Listen for the unusual—like the gathering of sparrows after a storm—often a signal that something is different. And then take the time to stop and look up. Maybe you’ll meet a presence you’ve never met before.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Venturing Forth Alive into the Fullness of the Day

In the middle of the night, I woke to a plaintive, bugling cry. I sat up and looked toward out the open window toward the woods. The cry stopped. Seconds later it came again. Loud, and yet distant. Across the river? An animal to be sure. But what animal? An elk perhaps, but perhaps not.

We watched. Shone the flashlight. Listened as the cry repeated. After ten minutes, it stopped. I snuggled back under the blankets, feeling oddly alive from the night’s mystery.

The next morning was a brilliance of sun and wind. A perfect day for a walk. I strode across the field and woods. Leaves did their final dance from the cottonwoods to the ground. Clouds rushed, full of places been, places yet to come.

I felt alive and full of ringing bells. This moment became life penultimate. How extraordinary it was just to venture forth, to venture forth alive into the fullness of the day after mystery in the night.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Bullet Train or Buggy? Let the Vehicle Determine the Goal

Our goals and road we take to reach them are inextricably mixed. We envision the destination—the treasure, the shining city—then plan what road we need to take to get there. But do we ever consider the vehicle needed to travel down that particular road to our chosen destination? There are bikes. SUVs. Gilded carriages. Electric Cars. The vehicle we travel in determines our experience of the journey.

So what’s the relationship between the destination, the road, and the vehicle?

Consider the bullet train. If you choose a bullet train, you’ll speed to your destination on an undeviating track laid down by others, with a machine pilot. The landscape will be a passing blur. The bullet train can’t go down a winding country road. Can’t stop for scenic surprises. But it can get to the city fast.

Some destinations you can only reach in particular vehicles that travel on particular roads. Your chosen vehicle and your chosen road determine the types of destinations (goals) you can reach. A bullet train usually goes to cities. A horse drawn buggy would take years to roll into the shining city. But it can navigate narrow lanes and secret byways. Stop and start where your interest calls. A bullet train can’t.

How I journey down the road has become more important to me than the destination. Because the journey is all the hours of my life. It’s my experience of life. So I’ve decided to stop planning my life around a destination. Instead, I first choose the vehicle I want to travel in and the kind of road that suits it. Then, I choose my destination based on the way I prefer to travel.

And all other choices flow from that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

7:30 BELLS: The Return of the Bells

Dear Reader,

After a summer hiatus, weekly 7:30 BELLS posts will return next Tuesday. I've missed writing them. I hope you spent a summer of glory hearing your own bells--hearing what makes your ring, resonate, and feel alive.

The changes of fall are in the air. Until next week . . .

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Choosing How to Connect: Second Annual Mouse House Retreat on the River

A glorious day here at River House on the Nisqually, with many of the writers in my Mouse House writers group. 

We wrote along the river. Ate strawberries picked that morning in my garden. Dodged a thunderstorm. Drank wine and hot chocolate huddled in the living room. We talked all things writing. Most of all, we came together in person instead of through screens.

With all the bombardment of  possible connection, we have to continuously and mindfully choose how we want to connect to the world. And what is most important for us to connect to, be it our writing, our readers, our family, or outward careers, our spirits.

 Lois Brandt

 Dave Patneaude

 Dori Hillstad Butler

Janet Lee Carey, Laurie Thompson, Kathryn Grace Bond, 
Lois Brandt, Dori Butler, Dia Calhoun, 
Suzanne Williams, Dave Patneaude

What a joyful day. Thank you all for coming. See you at the third annual Mouse House Retreat on the River!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Dwelling--The Birth of a New Novel

Dear 7:30 Bells Readers,

I wanted to let you know why there have been no new 7:30 BELLS posts for several weeks.  I've been writing all summer in a white hot heat, writing a new middle grade fantasy novel. The bells have been ringing and ringing for me as I write, so loud and sweet I can't hear anything else. Never before have I felt such joy or passion in writing a new book. I'm on the beam. I am the beam.

7:30 BELLS posts will resume. But for now, Social Media, networking, blogging is all sidelined. I'm focused on "connecting" -- my imagination, heart, and energy with this new work being born. This new work needs me to dwell and to dwell and to dwell with it. Nothing else matters.

I'm a writer first!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Numinous Bells

The vibrant feeling of being alive rushes in when elements blend into a numinous image. Like this water from our sprinkler dancing with the sun and wind, bejeweling the garden trellis.

The spray looks like some mystical being becoming suddenly, momentarily visible.

I stand, watching the water sweep in circles. No two moments are the same. They come and they go and they are gone--even though the sprinkler, like the day, like the year, like life and death, comes round again.

Don't miss a moment of it.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

7:30 BELLS: The Best of the Bells: Sunlight and Moonlight

Occasionally I run past favorite 7:30 BELLS posts, like this one, from last June.

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.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Mystery Startles Us Awake

Tonight, when I walked the meadow at dusk, clouds played a dark melody on the sky. It was beautiful enough. 

Then . . .a train whistle blew. The brass coming in. I stopped, listened. Then listened to the echo. And again the whistle blew and echoed. And I stood transfixed.

I'm not the first to be transfixed by that plaintive sound. But I wondered, why did it make me feel so alive? And the answer was simple. Because it was laden with mystery. 

Mystery, wonder--the things we feel but can't quite name--can't pin to any rational explanation, startles us awake and makes us feel alive.

Think about the mystery of that: What we don't understand makes us feel most alive.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Treasure Hunt for Books

Summer is almost here! That means, or I hope it does, reading outside--under trees, in trees, in hammocks, on beaches, boats, camp-outs, picnics . . . .

Kids always get assigned summer reading. But now is the time to ask them to make a list of three books they WANT to read this summer. This is the time to teach them the joy of recreational reading.

And if you hear the inevitable refrain . . . "I can't think of anything," send the child on a treasure hunt. Take her to the library and turn her loose to browse among the shelves. The only assignment: find three books to read that look interesting. Any books except graphic novels (we want them to READ). We need to teach the joy of random browsing among books. The joy of finding unexpected treasure that opens up your world.

Happy Summer Reading!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Let the Weeds Ring Out!

What made me feel alive this week? Weeds. Yes, weeds.

In spring they come forth—from everywhere. Between cracks in the pavement. Between gaps in the rockery. Among seedlings in the garden. In corners of pots. From everywhere comes the wonderful, verdant, riotous uplifting of life unrestrained.

I have three acres here in the country and lots of gardens. When I first moved here from the city, I looked at the weeds as soldiers in an invading army. I wanted manicured gardens. All that changed. Why? I changed.

I love that everything is alive and wants, fights, to live. I love the wild energy of weeds. And the bees love them, too. They make honey from their flowers.

I can’t think of a better way to live than to glean sweetness from what you once considered an enemy. Now the weeds and I do more than co-exist. Together, we flourish.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Being Alive is Being Hosted, by Mitali Perkins

I'm pleased to share this month's 7:30 Bells Guest Post by award-winning children's book author Mitali Perkins.

I was dreading traveling to the Middle East last month. My father is declining and on hospice; my mother needs my help. Would they be okay while I was gone? On top of that, I was worried about encountering the kitsch that comes with tourism, especially in the Holy Land. Would I gag over Jesus Bobblehead dolls for sale in Bethlehem? But my pastor husband had invited me to go along with our church group, and I knew it was important that I go.

“Why are you going to Israel?” Dad asked, looking worried. “We don’t have family there!”

Thanks to cognitive decline, his English is failing faster than his native Bangla. I tried to figure out a way to answer in that language. And then it came in the blink of an aha moment: “I’m going to visit Jesus’ ‘desh’, Dad.”

“Oh!” He leaned back in his wheelchair, nodding with a sudden, full comprehension of the purpose of my trip.

“Desh” literally means “village,” but it’s one of those words that loses oodles of meaning in translation. You can’t really know someone in Bengal unless you visit their “desh.” You draw much closer once you’ve received hospitality in the place where they grew up.

The word rang with a chime of invitation to me. “Come to my village, Mitali,” I heard.

And so I went.

When I travel, I delight in engaging all five senses, but my Host knew all about that. The taste of steaming flat bread and fresh fish from the Sea of Galilee, the sounds of roosters crowing and children calling to each other in Nazareth, the cool feel of old, golden stones under my palm in Jerusalem, the smells of olive oil and nard in Bethlehem, the sight of a golden dome, high on a hill where old olive trees remembered everything … I loved every minute in Jesus’ desh, and my parents shared the visit through the photos I was sending.

Being alive, after all, is being hosted. The whole world is His “desh.”

P.S. No bobblehead Jesus dolls. Only olive-wood sheep. I bought ten.

Mitali Perkins is the author of several novels, including Rickshaw Girl (chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the top 100 books for children in the past 100 years) and Bamboo People (an American Library Association's Top Ten Novels for Young Adults.) Her newest, Tiger Boy, Charlesbridge, is a Notable Book for a Global Society and an NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor Book. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the US with her family when she was seven. 

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

7:30 BELLS:When Two Worlds Meet

A spring storm blew the cherry blossoms, those sky dwellers, onto our pond. Pink islands for the gold fish looking up. Or pink clouds.

The surface of the water is like the skin of our own small consciousness. Something falls on us from above. Something flashes from the unknown depths below. For one moment all floats, tranquil. Lovely.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Join me on May 10 for a guest post with author Mitali Perkins.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

7:30 BELLS: When Mountains Become Breadcrumbs

On a day clear and glorious, I began the long drive home from the Teen Lit Festival in Bend, Oregon. Three Sisters Mountains graced the southwest. I saw Mount Washington, and Mount Jefferson soared in the northwest. All of them are strangers to me. I live between the Cascades and Olympic mountains in Washington state.

I drove west over Santiam Pass. More mountains rose and more, until I emerged some sixty miles south of Portland. Mount Hood, more familiar, rose to the northeast. Glancing back, I could still see the white peaks marking the way I’d come.

Crossing into Washington, old friends Mount Saint Helens and Mount Adams appeared, and soon after, my own Mount Rainier. And bells rang as it struck me: The mountains, the white bread crumbs of giants, had led me home.

We should always let mountains lead us home. Always follow what is immense, great, splendid, and utterly beyond us. Follow the wild beauty that rings the bells of our hearts. These are worthy standards to determine our way.

May the mountains always be my breadcrumbs.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Join me on May 10 for a guest post with author Mitali Perkins.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Before the World Awakes Bells by Kevan Atteberry

I'm pleased to share this month's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by the always irrepressible author/illustrator Kevan Atteberry.

guess my “7:30 Bells” are really more like 4:30 or 5:00 Bells; Early in the Morning Bells; when I am Up Before Most of the World Bells. I like being up early. And, if I am up early enough to see a sunrise, it’s even better; especially during the summer. I'm not sure why, but I find this time of the day—when most of the world is still sleeping—exhilarating. But it is not an easy thing to do. I have just as hard of time getting up early as anybody else. When my iPhone alarm goes off at 4:30, most of the time I am a snooze alarm abuser. 4:39, 4:48, 4:57, 5:06, etc. But those days I do actually get up when the alarm first goes off (usually the mornings when my bladder and alarm are in sync), I find by the time I’ve showered and dressed and am properly caffeinated, I am ready to take on the creative tasks at hand. I’m energized and inspired and ready to roll. Most of the time it is in my studio in front of the computer or at my drawing table. Other times (summer) when I can open the back door and listen to songs of other early risers in the yard, I might take my coffee and a sketch book to my neglected patio—or the front porch, if I want to see the city come to life—and start banging out something that I am sure is going to be brilliant.

It doesn’t have to be in front of my computer, the back yard, or the front porch. If the doughnut shop—I mean the coffee shop—is open, I am just as comfortable and productive among the hubbub of other human early risers. In fact I thrive on hubbub sometimes. The important thing is that it is early, and before most others are awake. It isn’t the same at 10:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. Maybe the being up early presents an opportunity for starting new. And the beauty of that idea is the opportunity happens every day. If I can get up for it.

Kevan is picture book illustrator and writer. He has illustrated lots of books for other writers and last year's BUNNIES!!! was his first authored picture book. He of course illustrated it, too. In May his second book, PUDDLES!!!, a companion book to BUNNIES, launches. And next year look for his I LOVE YOU MORE THAN THE SMELL OF SWAMP GAS—a book his editor has termed, "macho mushy." Kevan's biggest claim to fame is as the creator of Clippy the Microsoft Word helper.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Join me on May 10 for a guest post with author Mitali Perkins.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Best of 7:30 BELLS: Poet Linda Robertson on the Sense of Place

Occasionally I run the BEST OF 7:30 BELLS, to share past posts with new readers. This, originally from January 27, 2015 is one of my favorites. Enjoy!

Linda M. Robertson and I met near this bell in the Cape George Colony. She was walking down the road toward the beach and I was walking up the road. We smiled at each other. She asked, "Did you see the sea otters?" And friendship blossomed. We were both poets, had both had lived and loved the Methow Valley. Robertson's beautiful, fine press book, Letters to Julia: 1898-1899 is set there, as are my books Eva of the Farm and After the River the Sun. 

I'm so pleased to share her resonating essay: Sense of Place.

At the edge of the Salish Sea, there hangs a large bronze bell. Shapes of fish and stones are cast in the metal, as well as the words: “Our simplest wisdom is to follow the sea-bright salmon home.”

The idea of “home” makes me think of place. I am a writer that cherishes sense of place. It is place that makes me feel alive, that rings and resonates in my work. Place provides me with vocabulary, with narratives, with inspiration for image-making; with a landscape to discover and chart as I build word-cairns, poems. My poems act as time-capsules; they bring people, incidents, and places of the past into the present.

I don’t consider “place” to reference only outer landscapes. My poems and prose also illuminate emotions, visual art, and dreams. I have written about “the places of goodbye,” as well as spiritual journeys: “Walking the Edge of Heaven.”

In the essay “The Art of Finding” poet Linda Gregg recalls the landscape of her youth and writes “The elements of that bright world are in my poetry now…They are present as essences. They operate invisibly as energy, equivalents, touchstones, amulets, buried seed, repositories, and catalysts…” She refers to this recalled landscape as her own “resonant sources.”

As I reflect on the landscapes that continue to be present as “essences” in my work, I think of San Diego, where I was born and lived for the first 20 plus years of my life. My memories pulse with broad beaches, fishing boats, shorebirds and the sea’s salt-songs. I think also of the shrub-steppe eastern slopes of the North Cascades in Washington state—a remarkable place I called home for nearly 30 years.

In December I completed a Low-Residency MFA program at Chatham University, Pittsburgh. My Thesis “The Missing” is a manuscript of 51 pages of poems. As I review the work I crafted over the past three years while I was living and traveling in the US and the UK, I see how sense of place pervades the manuscript. No matter if I was writing about personal struggles, dreams, a painting from the 15th century, my son who died too soon at age 20, or my elderly parents—place is often present and resonant. The southern sea and the northern mountain world are with me as I sit at my desk and write. This poem, the final one in my manuscript— written while in England as I wrestled with change of place and home, is an example:


Later I will say
the hills conspired: crowds
of balsam root and lupine
hindered my passage; my shoulders
bound by snow-thrift clouds.
Not one clock struck
the hour. I leaned
the broadest yellow pine, the flags
of prayer, where a male grouse
stood sentry. The maple tree
sheltered the bird-bowls sheen
a last offering. The distances before me
inscribed with raven wings.

In my writing, I find truth in the I Ching’s: “There is no going without returning.”

Linda M. Robertson is a recent graduate of Chatham University’s Low-Residency MFA program. Publications include “Letters to Julia: 1898-1899” by the Methow Conservancy, Visions of Verse, The Methow Naturalist, Mirror Northwest. A chapbook, Reply of Leaves, was published by Magic Mountain Press in 2002. Linda lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest and England and hopes to publish work from her manuscript The Missing in literary journals.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Join me on April 12 for a guest post with author Kevan Attebury

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Old Moon Bells

From the first appearance of the waxing crescent, I count down the days until the full moon rises in all her shining glory. I hope for a windy evening so the clouds make flashing ruffles –dark and light—around her, while stars peek in and out. 

Then the days pass, and the full moon wanes, rising later and later each night.

During one of those nights last week, I couldn’t sleep. Outside the window the old moon shone, keeping me company through the dark hours. And bells inside of me rang as I realized the old moon has her glory, too. But it isn’t celebrated, it isn’t seen. We sleep, dreaming.

The old moon is the true queen of the night. She needs no adulation. I had the feeling of being held in the arms of something old, wise, and watchful. Something that could hold every part of me, whether deviled or winged, adventurer or mystic, lion or mouse.

What a comfort. What a liberation.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
Join us on April 12 when author Kevan J. Atteberry shares what makes him ring, resonate, and feel alive.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

7:30 BELLS: The Secret of Change

For thousands of years bells have sounded not only for joyful events, but also as warnings. The faintest bell, the shortest ring is the true trigger of internal revolution.

I used to think that changing your life or your self involved colossal effort. Knock down the entire house of your life and build a new one. But who can do that? It’ so overwhelming that we just repaint the shutters blue and call it good.

Some, knowing that, suggests making small changes, one by one. Dust one piece of furniture every day and after two weeks it will become a habit. That can be useful, but it seems backwards to me.

For me, habits, behaviors, and ways of being in the world are paper chains. One thing links back to another and another, down and down, until the chain vanishes in the lunar unconscious. A lot of what is fundamental to us is built on things we have no conscious knowledge of. Minding my dreams for three years has taught me that.

Consider this quote from Carl Jung:

“The archetypes have this peculiarity in common with the atomic world, which is demonstrating before our eyes that the more deeply the investigator penetrates into the universe of microphysics the more devastating are the explosive forces he finds enchained there. That the greatest effects come from the smallest causes has become patently clear not only in physics but in the field of psychological research as well. How often in the critical moments of life everything hangs on what appears to be a mere nothing!” Carl Gustav Jung The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairy Tales (italics mine)

Minding my dreams has given me a glimpse of the secret of true change. Whatever I want to change I trace back down the chain as far as possible, then cut that link. All the others will tumble. This disrupts the entire chain of events that ends in some unwanted habit or way of being.

If the lights are dim in your house, you don’t need to knock the whole house down to fix it. Just follow the faulty wire—through the light fixture, into the ceiling, across the wall, along the studs, down and down to the sub basement until you behold the gremlin or root gleefully twisting the wire.

Get rid of it. Make peace with it. Sing to it. Do whatever is needed until light shines out in every room in your house. “A great effect,” a great change, “coming from the smallest cause.” You don’t have to deal with every link.

The monster or gremlin or root will certainly return—it’s used to being there. Gradually I become more tuned to the slightest dimming of the lights. That’s my warning bell and now I KNOW what to do. I stop the chain at its source.

As I pay attention, the gremlin grows weaker and weaker, takes over less often. You might find that you have to follow the chain farther back. Beyond the gremlin lurks something else, something you couldn’t see before because the gremlin blocked the view.

It is all forever unfolding, if you just listen for the faintest warning bell, just listen and watch. 

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
Join us on April 12 when author Kevan J. Atteberry shares what makes him ring, resonate, and feel alive.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Cut Off the Branches That No Longer Ring

Sometimes what once made us feel radiantly alive—a friendship, a job, an idea, a project, a religion—doesn’t anymore. What once rang fades to a tolling dirge. Often I have trouble recognizing this, trouble letting die what needs to die. This had value once, I think. This rang, once. So I attempt CPR and try to force life back into it.

But if you don’t let die what needs to, there’s no room for something new to grow.

The question is, how do you learn to recognize when something’s time has come? When do you pick up the knife?

Pruning is an art that has to be practiced, like any other art. Often the guiding principle is to open the tree up to as much light as possible. I once read something helpful, I don’t recall where: “Cut off the branch that has no singing left in it.”

Translating this into my own symbolic life language, I’d say this: Hold the knife with care. Give thanks to what once sustained you but no longer does. Then, with intention and respect, cut off the branch that has no ringing left in it. Let it die. Let yourself mourn. And then walk on.

New branches will grow. New buds will bloom. New bells will rise and ring, because you’ve purposefully shaped your life to let in new light.

Spring bursts from winter. 

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
Join us on April 12 when author Kevan J. Atteberry shares what makes him ring, resonate, and feel alive.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Hearing the Bells: 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by Elizabeth Rose Stanton

I'm happy to share this guest post by author illustrator Elizabeth Rose Stanton. And no doubt about it, she is an AMAZING artist!

For years I didn’t think I was meant to be an artist. Looking back on it I knew in my heart I wanted to be one but didn’t, for one reason or another, take it seriously.

I should have known, though, the first time I heard those bells go off. I distinctly remember the moment. I don’t remember exactly how old I was . . . maybe twelve? I was alone in my room, it was late and I was supposed to be asleep. I had a pencil, a pad of lined paper, and a photograph of something I wanted to capture. Then it happened. Without being entirely conscious of it, I had broken down an image to an abstraction, and reassembled it into ART! It was exhilarating and powerful. Bells and whistles went off!

I heard those bells, loud and clear that night, and I felt them . . . but I didn’t heed them. I didn’t know exactly what to do with my newfound superpower. I suppose it was because I didn’t have a frame of reference at the time. I suppose, too, it was because I grew up in a household that, while otherwise encouraging, didn’t value the notion of a professional life devoted to art.

But over the years those bells kept ringing, sometimes intermittently, sometimes faintly, as I wandered down one life path after another. I became an architect (lots of drawing, right?), I had kids (!!), and I dabbled in design and arts administration (getting closer . . .). Finally, in what was truly a clear-as-a-bell moment (and, indeed, it felt like it happened in a moment) I found myself an illustrator AND an author. Those bells were ringing so loud I couldn’t ignore them any longer!

Looking back a lifetime, I wish I’d had the wherewithal to realize how powerful that first moment, long ago, really was—and to fully understand what it meant. I wish I’d pursued my art more directly. But I’ve come to appreciate all the life experiences I have had and have come to know that every one of them has, in fact, been leading me straight to where I am now.

My bells are ringing loud and clear, once again.

So when your bells go ringing, be sure and pay attention!

Thanks for having me, Dia!

Elizabeth Rose Stanton began her grownup life as an architect; then segued over to arts administration and design after starting a family a long time ago. Now she builds picture books, and is having a blast!

Her first book, HENNY (Simon & Schuster), was named a best picture book by the New York Public Library (Titles for Reading and Sharing, 2014), was a Kids’ Indie Next List pick, and was a finalist for the Prix Jeunesse des Libraires du Quebec. Her picture book PEDDLES (Simon & Schuster), was just released (January 2016), and she has recently begun work on her third picture book for Simon & Schuster, BUB, due out in early 2018.

Elizabeth lives in Seattle with her husband and three Scottish Fold cats.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
Join us on April 12 when author Kevan J. Atteberry shares what makes him ring, resonate, and feel alive.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Spring Bells! Announcing 7:30 BELLS Guest Post Lineup.

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

March 8
Author and Illustrator Elizabeth Rose Stanton
creator of the beautiful and heart-warming picture books
Peddles and Henny

April 12
Kevan Atteberry has been drawing
 since he was "knee-high to a crayon." He's an illustrator and author
 of books such as Bunnies!!! and Halloween Hustle.

May 10
Author of nine novels for young people,
Mitali Perkins invites readers to her "virtual fire escape," 
to read and chat about life between cultures.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

7:30 BELLS: The Call of the Magnificent: Moon and Mountain

Saturday evening driving south, I saw the west side of Mount Rainier at sunset, the other side hidden. In the east, a nearly full moon rose. The mountain that rises from the earth and the moon that rises over the earth—how similar they were. On both the shadows of rugged rock. On both the wash of water color blue. The world was ringing for my attention.

Only half of each of these magnificences was visible. There’s so much of the world, of life, that we can’t see, don’t know. So much lost in shadow. Hidden by clouds. So we think nothing is there.

This is true of ourselves as well. And then something breaks through—in our dreams, our work, our beliefs, our unexpected response to a situation—and we have an intimation of the immensity of the hidden. Most of the time we ignore it until the mountain erupts in pain to get our attention.

As I drove I couldn’t look at this moment in time, these two magnificences—moon and mountain—the way I wanted to, because I was driving on the freeway.

And isn’t that the truth too? We’re so busy hurtling down the freeway of our lives that we don’t pull over for such moments. Don’t realize the importance of this witnessing and how it connects us to our greater world. Yet, we will pull over to answer the ringing phone, or risk an accident to talk on the phone while driving, even though we can always call back. The phone number is there. The person is there. What’s so important?

But the call of the sunset moment of the two magnificences passes forever. The ringing will stop, and we can’t call back.

Don’t miss it. Answer the call of any magnificence you are lucky enough to witness.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

7:30 BELLS: The Bells of Making and Unmaking

Every morning I take my beautiful woven bedspread out of a drawer and unfold it in the same ritual way across my bed. I take care to feel the texture of the cloth. To look at the colors. This ritual brings me from the honored dream world of the unconscious night back into the topside world. Even on dark winter mornings, the yellow and white flowers speak of sun. Day has come.

I keep my bedroom as a place of honor to the night time world (no e-mail, TV, texts). Gifts of deep knowing come from dreams. Many of us try to lead mindful lives. I recently heard author Murray Stein say that it is mindful to pay attention to your dreams. Yes. Only when my bed is beautifully made, do I leave the bedroom and begin the day. I transition to consciousness and its gifts.

Every night, I fold my bedspread in the same ritual way and place it back in its drawer. Like tucking the sun away for the night. I begin letting go of the daylight world in preparation for the night time one.

This ritual began three years ago when I developed a severe dust mite allergy. All my bedding must be washed weekly in hot water. Cotton can’t tolerate that. I wash the bedspread every month in expensive low temperature allergy detergent and tumble it on air fluff for hours to dry. But I decided to remove the bedspread at night to minimize my exposure. And so this beautiful, centering ritual developed out of need.

But isn’t that always the way? Rituals around life, death, marriage, eating—all developed because we have some deep need. Ritual is a form of practice, keeping before our eyes what we most want to remember. 

For me as an artist this ritual of making and unmaking my bed connects me to the larger creative world. It symbolizes the astounding cyclical rhythm of life. Out of unmaking arises new making. New life springs from the unconscious night time world and meets the rush of the conscious sunlit world. And in the great splash of meeting, they create something new, something unexpected, something the world so deeply needs from us.

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

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:
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.

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

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.