Sunday, November 13, 2011

Alaska, Eugene, and Other Fall Adventures

 Dave and Snuffy
Hello everyone and happy fall! This is my favorite season. There have been many beautiful autumn days here in October and November and while I haven't gotten up into the mountains to see the larch trees (grr) I have taken many nice bike rides.

Mom in Juneau, Alaska
One of those great bike rides was in Eugene, Oregon, where I was on assignment for a story about Oregon's designated scenic bikeways. Dave and I lived it up in the lap of luxury at the Campbell House Bed and Breakfast, then thoroughly enjoyed ourselves amidst fall splendor on a bike trail variously referred to as the Lake Dorena trail, the Covered Bridges trail, and the Row River Trail.

 It's the newest of Oregon's designated scenic bikeways - so new that it's not even on the website yet but it will be soon. And it's well worth riding!

You'll get to read all about it when I write the article for OutdoorNW's special cycling edition in the spring. Speaking of OutdoorsNW, I recently took a part-time job there as an assistant editor, and it's an absolute blast. Check out the blog post I wrote for them about my August backpacking trip to the Cascades.

As for other fall adventures, there was the  ill-fated Alaska cruise that I went on with my mom in September. The cruise (which started in Anchorage and went to Vancouver) got delayed for two days because of the weather, and the seas were so rough that we had to skip most of our ports of call. However, on the positive side we got to see some great fall colors there too when we weren't being tossed around on stormy seas and getting seasick. Above is a photo of my mom taking in the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, the one port that we did get to vist.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Late Summer Report

Hello all,

Snuffy prepares for a day at the office
It's finally summer here in Seattle and about time - it's late August! Even though the sun has been reluctant to shine, I've still been quite restless, running around hither thither, and dipping my toe into all sorts of things.

Besides working hard at a new part-time editing job Geeksoft (I KNOW! I CAN'T ESCAPE THEM!) I've been leading trips for the Seattle Mountaineers, taking part in a new writing group, taking classes at Richard Hugo House, kayaking on various northwest bodies of water such as the Duwamish River and Deception Pass, attending writing workshops at Field's End, getting all sorts of writing, speaking, and teaching events lined up for the next few months, and working on a novel for kids 8-12

I'll be teaching my popular "Roughing It" class in the fall and this time I plan to write a rough draft in six weeks right along with my students.

And this weekend I'll be cleaning up horse poop as a volunteer for Hope for Horses! If you happened to catch my reading at Salon of Shame in 2006 or Cheap Wine and Poetry in 2009 you heard an excerpt from a novel I wrote in sixth grade about "the love between a girl and a horse" during which many melodramatic things happen including my protagonist falling off her beloved horse into a pit of rattlesnakes.
I was in love with horses when I was a girl and I still am. Alas, I just haven't had the funds to buy or ride one, much less board one somewhere (although Dave suggested we might have room in our 10' by to 10' storage locker). So I'm looking forward to some horse time this weekend.

That's all the news that's fit to print for now. Aurevoir and see you in the fall.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hello Darlings,
It's been a fab spring for publishing!

Besides getting published in Harbors Magazine and Modern Love Rejects (*with an essay that is about to be reprinted any second on the fabulous site Dating Diva Daily*) I've now published a story very dear to my heart on Literary Mama for their Father's Day edition.

This essay looks back at the formative years I spent backpacking with my family in the high Sierras. In particular it celebrates the way my dad threw himself into backpacking - dragging us along with him - after a major heart attack nearly killed him at 33.

I first wrote a version of this essay when I was about 11 years old. My parents - convinced I was a literary genius - sent it off to Backpacker Magazine, which promptly rejected it.

Then I took another stab at it in a college creative writing class with the the late great Leonard Michaels. That version had some damn good description in it if I do say so myself (Lenny's faint praise be damned):

"The most exciting part of the trip was glimpsing Wire Lake for the first time. It would appear in a sudden flash of silver through the trees. My dad usually offered a nickel to the first kid who saw it. Fifteen minutes later, we would come upon the lake in its entirety, sparkling blue and immense. Time would reduce its size and brilliance in my imagination, so that its beauty was always shocking."

Still, it was another 10 years before I dusted the thing off to try again: this time as an attempt to get published in a Seal Press anthology about father-daughter travel adventures. I never finished that version though I did come up with a good opening for it.

And finally, three more years after that, I dug it up, thought "that's a good opening!"  and then polished it the rest of it to a fine sheen for a travel writing contest at Wanderlust and Lipstick.

Which I did not win! I did not even get an honorable mention! Hmmph. But in the end, that is not the important thing. The important thing is I finally (finally!) wrote the essay to my satisfaction, and now it has been published. Just in time for Father's Day.

Here's to you Dad - who taught me to love and feel comfortable in the mountains, so that they are now like a second home to me. I miss you very much but you are always there with me on the trail, in the meadows, on the peaks, and - most of all - on the peaceful alpine lakeshores as the sun goes down.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

Greetings all. Late spring has finally arrived here in Seattle, meaning it's sunny (sort of), warm (sort of), and yet another birthday is about to roll around. (Yay! Cheering despite fears of creeping decrepitude!)

Besides the many lavish gifts I'm sure I'll receive from friends and family, one of the best is coming in the form of publication. Though I've published quite a few things over the years, never has something gotten published on my actual birthday.

The backstory: Five years ago, on the eve of the publication of BreakupBabe: A Novel, I attempted to get over my postpartum novel-writing depression by pouring my energies into an oh-so-witty and incisive essay about blogging and how it had blessed my writing life and cursed my love life. This was not just any essay, though. This essay would be published in "Modern Love" in the New York Times!

I slaved over this essay with Modern Love in my sights. I don't know why I wanted to be published in Modern Love so bad. I wasn't looking for an agent or a book deal - I already had one of those. I just wanted to. Since I was now a bonafide expert on writing about love, lust, and relationships, my writing (so I believed)  was a natural fit for this most coveted of columns.

You know where this is going, right? My story got rejected. Oh, the hubris! I even turned down the chance to contribute an essay to Single State of the Union because I was working on this stupid, soon-to-be-rejected essay.

After picking up the pieces of my broken heart, I submitted the essay a few more places. Then I gave up. Because after all, this piece was written expressly for Modern Love. It didn't belong anywhere else, damn it!

So imagine my delight when a writer friend told me recently about a new website called "Modern Love Rejects," a site that publishes - well, just what it sounds like.  I checked out the site and found out that I was in very good company indeed. Lots of good writers get rejected from Modern Love. Multiple times! Including the founders of the website, who are widely published journalists and authors both.

I also found out that the site doesn't publish just any reject essay: the editors have to like it and think it fits the "Modern Love" format. You also have to forward your rejection from the Modern Love editor to prove your claim that you actually submitted there.

Here's mine: "Dear Rebecca, I read your piece with interest, and it's nicely handled, but I'm afraid we've done a few 'blog' pieces, including one early on that had the writer starting the blog as a means to vent after a break up. Even though that was a while ago and yours heads in a different direction, it still feels a bit too close and familiar. But thanks for trying me."

I was therefore tickled pink when Modern Love Rejects not only accepted my essay but told me it was one of the nicest rejections they had ever seen from the Modern Love editor without it actually being an acceptance. Whoohoo!

So there you go. My favorite birthday present of the year (though more lavish gifts could roll in at any minute). Look for it on Monday, May 23rd!

Meanwhile, while I'm bragging about my own accomplishment, I do want to give a shout-out to two of my Seattle writer friends who actually did get published in Modern Love recently: Kathy Harding, who writes about finding love and getting pregnant when she least expected it, and Nicole Hardy, whose essay is called "Single, Female, Mormon, Alone."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring arrives with a crash

Pre-collision skiing at Scottish Lakes
Happy spring!

A lot has happened since my last post, including smashing into a tree while skiing at one of my favorite places, Scottish Lakes High Camp. Luckily I walked away with only a minor knee sprain. It hurt like h*ll when it happened but it could have been a whole lot worse. So while I feel dumb (Hello! why did I not steer away from that stupid tree?) I also feel lucky.

Meanwhile, things have been going a little more smoothly in the writing world. Here's the latest:

*Two articles that I wrote came out in the spring issue of Harbors Magazine. Check out my Portfolio page to see them, or better yet, read the article about kayaking the southern Gulf Islands right now!

*Also I'm excited to announce that my essay, Once More to Wire Lake, is going to be published in Literary Mama's Father's Day Issue. I have literally been trying to write this essay since I was about 12 years old. This is my fourth version of it and I finally got it right. It's all about my family's adventures in the high Sierras when I was a wee lass, focusing particularly on my dad's motivation for bringing us there.

*For National Poetry Month, I recited one of my favorite poems for Richard Hugo House, which is posting a poem a day on YouTube for the month of April. The best part of it is that Snuffy, my oh-so-literary pug was part of the proceedings. Check out my video now, or look at Joe Lambert's Hugo House blog to see all of them!

*I'm hard at work on my novel for middle readers, and though it's going slowly (what else is new?) it is going!

*My spring Hugo House class, Roughing It: Write a Draft of Your Book in Six Weeks, is filled to the brim with eager writers ready for the masochistic challenge of writing a book-length manuscript in just over a month. I will be encouraging them with wine and chocolate. Thanks to student, and writer in his own right, Evan Peterson for the shout-out in his blog, Poemocracy.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

March Madness

My niece has clearly inherited my sense of style
Hello darlings. Hope you are weathering the weather out there.

Bad weather is always conducive to creativity for me, and I've been particularly productive during these late winter months. Here are a few things brewing.

First and foremost, my spring class at Richard Hugo House is now open for registration and it's already half full! Find out more on my classes page or go directly to the Hugo House class catalog and sign up for it there. It's called "Roughing It: Write a Draft of Your Book in Just Six Weeks."

I hope to be speaking again this fall at the Write on the Sound conference on the topic of blogging, this time with an all-star panel. Stay tuned!

I've really enjoyed the Novel Revision class I'm taking at Hugo House and highly recommend Joni Sensel as a teacher.

I've added a new element to my writing routine: doing fifteen minutes of free-writing every day in my notebook by hand. Author and writing teacher Priscilla Long convinced me of the importance of this in her great book, The Writer's Portable Mentor, and now it's a habit I can't live without.

I was thrilled recently to receive two comments on my blog that talked about how much my book had meant to people. Here they are:

"In January a friend and I took a trip to Chicago after my boyfriend of nearly 3 years broke up with me and in a used book store. I wasn't looking for anything in particular but stumbled upon breakup babe and read it in about a week. I couldn't put it down! Being that when I started to notice distance in my relationship I attempted to start a blog about it your book really hit a nerve with me! I loved it and it gave me so much hope for my future in dating and life in general. It made me laugh, made me cry, but most of all made me hopeful that what everyone is saying is true, time heals!! Thank you for your wonderful writing and sharing your story of love, loss, and being single." - posted by Sammie on 2/13

"I stumbled across your book in my public library and am so happy I did. I could not put it down as I could relate to it on many levels. So yes, four years later, it is still helping to mend broken hearts and put some things into perspective. Thank you for sharing and putting it out there. It is nice to know one is not alone in troubled times." - posted by A New Fan on 10/18

Thanks so much for your comments Sammie and "A New Fan!"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Funtastic February News

Happy February all! Here are a few things that are shaking in my literary world lately:
  • Saw poet extraordinaire Kate Lebo read at Mary Schile's world-famous pie party
  • Am taking a class called Novel Revision from Joni Sensel at Richard Hugo House
  • Have two travel articles coming out in the spring issue of "Harbors" Magazine (the new inflight air magazine for Kenmore Air)
  • Am teaching a reprise of my popular class "Roughing It: Write a Draft of Your Book in Just Six Weeks" class at Hugo House this spring. It hasn't been formally announced yet but the class will be on Thursday nights starting on April 7.
  • Coached a writer on her suspensful entry for the Ninth Annual Speculative Fiction Contest (good luck, Karyn!)
  • Have been reading my friend and colleague Waverly Fitzgerald's book "Slow Time" and finding it both intriguing and practical.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year and Happy New Blog!

Yo peeps! I got a new blog! Undoubtedly every writer who uses Blogger is using this bookish template, but whatevs.

It's a new year, time for a new blog. Notice I've imported all the entries from SparklySparkly (RIP) for posterity. I still need to flesh this baby out with all the gadgets and whatnot but here it is for now.

Uh, let's see.

In travel news, I  made it back alive from Costa Rica. Had a lovely trip, complete with monkeys, toucans, sloths, poison dart frogs, and lingering stomach ailment. Went whitewater rafting, strolled through the rainforest canopy on suspension bridges strung hundreds of feet over rushing rivers, swam at the foot of waterfalls, and was awakened at dawn by howler monkeys starting their day.

Also ate lots of "casado," the typical Costa Rican dish of rice, beans, plantains, salad, and some protein or other. Drank lots of "Imperial" - one of five (or so) beers made in Costa Rica. We suffered through some torrential rain on the Carribbean coast but got in one very sunny day there which Dave and I spent strolling through the lovely Parque Nacional de Cahuita.

Photo courtesy of El Viajero Contento

 It not only featured stunning white sand beaches but monkeys and sloths at close range plus lots of magnificent blue morpho butterflies.

Perhaps I'll write more about the trip shortly. Meanwhile, in writing news, I have a class coming up this spring at Hugo House - the ever-popular Roughing It: Write a Rough Draft of Your Book in Six Weeks. So stay tuned for details about that!

I also recently submitted an essay for a travel-writing contest at Wanderlust and Lipstick, a fun travel website geared towards the ladies. I dusted off an essay I'd started three years ago about my family's trips to the Sierras when I was a kid, in particular our annual backpacking trip to a place called Wire Lake. Here's how it begins:

It is half an hour into our first ever family backpacking trip and things are not going well. My little sister, age six, is crying. On top of her pack, her decrepit stuffed elephant Freddie bobs around with a little stuffing poking out of his pink, earless head.
“What’s the matter?” says my father, as if it isn’t obvious. Since leaving the trailhead, we have been hiking upwards at a suicidally steep angle with heavy packs on our shoulders. It is hot. It is dusty. On a normal Saturday, Erica and I would be living the high life: roller-skating, reading books, or watching Brady Bunch reruns. Now, inexplicably, we are being tortured...