Meeting my Readers

Meeting my readers

I scheduled a series of talks this Fall at public libraries and independent book stores. I’ve given six talks so far. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet my readers, tell them about my work, and answer their questions. I’m always impressed by the questions from kids. It’s obvious that they have read, and thought about, my books.

There have been some exciting and fun moments at these events. When I was at Third Place Books, the woman who adopted my first foster cat, Edgar, was there, bringing photos to show me how well Edgar is doing. Donna, the woman I volunteered with at many shopping mall adoptathons, came and it was great to see her again. At some, I’ve met for the first time people with whom I’ve e-mailed, and I have had coffee afterwards with old friends.

Last Saturday I was at the Enumclaw, WA public library. The woman who adopted Gus came and had the audience laughing as she told about his diet. The friend who rescued Rosie when she saw her tossed from a car was there. I was excited to sign a copy of Animals Welcome for Roland and Marie Smith’s grandsons. (Roland is a terrific author.)

The most exciting moment for me was when I met the Milotz family who had driven SIX HOURS from Idaho to meet me. What an honor! That’s Ciera in the photo with me.

Next Sat., Oct. 6, I’ll be at the Buckley WA library at 11:00 a.m. This is my home branch. A glass display case just inside the entrance has changing displays, and this week it contains many of my book awards. I thought it would be fun for readers to see what they look like.

Recording Animals Welcome

Animals Welcome, audioThis week I recorded Animals Welcome. I loved the studio that Audible hired for me to do this. Bear Creek Studios in Woodinville WA is a huge, gorgeous converted dairy barn with various rooms for recording. Many musical groups record there, so two grand pianos and an antique pump organ are available. The control room was about the size of my living room, full of high-tech equipment.

There were funky old things hanging everywhere. My favorite was a Marine Harmonica that must have been from a store display. It was about three feet long, by 18 inches high by a foot deep. The bathroom that I used was decorated with antique skeleton memorabilia, including a “band” of skeletons about six inches high, all playing instruments. There was even a dog greeter – a 13-year-old Jack Russell terrier named Rosie who was all waggy and happy to welcome me.

I was in a small sound-proof room that was just large enough for a comfy chair, a reading lamp, and two microphones. We had to stop after I’d read only a page and change chairs. They had me in a big leather arm chair and whenever I moved at all, the leather squeaked and the mike picked up the noise. Once everything was right, we just flew along.

I worried that my voice got kind of hoarse but the guys doing the recording insisted it sounded fine. I could pause for a drink or take a break any time I wanted. Several times the tech guy, Jerry, asked me to read a sentence over and a few times I did that without being asked because I had stumbled or slurred or whatever. My only difficulty came in the section about Carl’s death. I started to cry and had to stop for a few minutes and try again. I was able to continue but for several minutes after that my hands shook. I was afraid the book would rattle but apparently it didn’t and on we went. Jerry was great. A cat lover himself, we had much in common.

Bear Creek sends the result to Audible in New York, who will do the editing and produce the CD. I’ll let you know when the audio version is available. Meantime, I have memories of a hard day’s work that was also a grand adventure.

Early Work Lives On

I spend a lot of time on e-mail with odds and ends of writing business. Today I heard from a drama teacher in Texas who had students performing a skit I wrote called, “The Better to Stalk You With, My Dear.” She had a photocopy of the script but in order to qualify for a competition they were entering, she needed an original copy and couldn’t find where to purchase it.

I remembered writing something with that title but had no clue where it eventually got published. I looked at the indexes of all four of my drama books (published by Meriwether Publishing) and it wasn’t in any of them.

Years ago I published some skit kits and other short pieces with Contemporary Drama Service, a branch of Meriwether, so I went to their web site and did a search for my name. Several items popped up, including some collections of skits that did not specify what was included. My former editor’s son now runs the business so I forwarded the inquiry to him and he said he would look for that title.

He found it! It’s in a booklet called Comedy Duets #2, now available in digital form, so he emailed the teacher with information on how to order it. My best guess is that I wrote it in 1975.

It’s pretty bad when I’ve written so much material that I can’t even remember where specific pieces got published. On the other hand, I’m pleased to know that a script I wrote thirty-seven years ago is still selected by teens to perform today.


Celebrating July 31

Today was my mother’s birthday. She died in 1998 but I still do something special to celebrate each year on July 31.

This year, the day’s celebration began with house guests: my youngest granddaughter, Chelsea, her mom (my daughter-in-law) Pam, and Chelsea’s baby, Seth, who will be one year old in August. There is nothing like a year-old baby who knows how to walk to keep everyone else on their toes! He is a happy, busy boy. When I introduced him to player piano music, he jiggled up and down to the beat. My mother loved family gatherings and always showed interest in whatever the grandkids and great-grandkids were doing. She also enjoyed player piano music. She would have loved watching little Seth.

Mother was a generous person who liked to give surprise gifts to friends and who contributed to a wide variety of charitable causes, so I always make a donation in her honor on this day. As it happened, I received an unexpected check today for reprint rights to “The Dog Newspaper,” the first chapter in my memoir, Five Pages a Day: A Writer’s Journey, so I decided to make two donations this year. As I wrote out the checks, I felt – as I have felt all my life – grateful to have had such wonderful parents.

Happy birthday, Mother.


Three Little Kittens



Anne’s neighbors found a stray cat and her three kittens under their garden shed. The kittens appeared to be about five weeks old. Thus began the Great Cat Rescue. The mother was the first to be trapped.  Anne had her spayed, vaccinated, and treated for fleas and ear mites. Anne’s laundry room was the recovery center.

It took three days to catch all the kittens. I brought them home to the Five Star Kitty Hotel, formerly my guest bathroom. I didn’t want to put them in the large foster cat room because there are too many places there for a tiny kitten to hide and these were not yet socialized. My bathroom has radiant heat, and the kitties love the warm floor.

Because Anne did all the trapping, she got naming rights to the kittens. The grey one with blue eyes, the only male, is Whittaker, because of his climbing abilities. The tiny, agile black-and-white one is Nadia. We believe she has a future in cat gymnastics. The grey and white with longer fur is Tippy because of the white tips on her ears. Even when I am mixing kitten formula at 3 a.m., they are adorable.

They went to the vet yesterday to be treated for ear mites and get a blood test – and Whittaker didn’t come home with me! It was love at first meow for one of the vet techs whose mother just happened to be looking for a kitten to adopt.

This morning a friend of Anne’s brought her nine-year-old daughter and six-year-old son to see the kittens, and took both of them home. I am so happy for them to stay together, and I know they are going to a wonderful home. When I offered to foster these kitties, I anticipated it would take a month or more to find homes for them. Instead it took only three days. Lucky kitties!

New Fawn

NEW FAWN  6/14/12

A fawn was born here Sunday afternoon. I watched as it wobbled to its feet. Then the mother licked it clean while another doe ran in circles all around the back of my property. I think she was the proud auntie, celebrating – or maybe she did that to distract any predators until the fawn was steady enough to toddle after his mother. I feel so privileged to share my piece of Earth with wildlife.

Silver and Tonto

Silver and Tonto   May 22, 2012

When I was stricken with polio at the age of twelve, I spent many weeks in a wheelchair, which I named Silver, after the Lone Ranger’s horse. Eventually I transitioned to walking sticks and then, as those of you who have read my memoir, Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, know, I was finally able to walk without assistance. It was an accomplishment that affected my outlook and personality for the rest of my life.

As Small Steps was being prepared for publication, my editor asked for a photo of me in my wheelchair to put on the book’s cover. I couldn’t find one, so I called my mother. She confessed that after I was able to walk again, she had destroyed every picture of me in the wheelchair. “I didn’t want to remember you that way,” she said.

Sixty-plus years later, one of my biggest problems from post-polio syndrome is fatigue. My increasingly weak muscles tire quickly and are prone to permanent damage if I over-use them. If I walk too far, especially on hard surfaces, I end up not only in pain, but with leg muscles that may not completely recover.

When I began making plans to attend my granddaughter’s college graduation, I knew from past visits to Whitman College that we would be doing a lot of walking to and from campus, and between buildings. We had a full schedule and I did not want to miss anything so l borrowed a wheelchair for the weekend. Anne, Kevin,  Eric, and Brett, were there to help push. Soon after we arrived Friday afternoon we decided to walk around campus to visit all of the places that had been so special during Brett’s four years there.

“Do you want the wheelchair?” Anne asked.  “No,” I said. “I’ve been sitting in the car for five hours; I need to move around.” I should have said yes. Even as I was saying no, I knew I would regret it, and I did. Long before we finished our campus tour, my legs hurt and I was over-tired.

Why had I not made use of the wheelchair that I had borrowed and that Kevin had wrestled into the trunk of the car? I’ve used a cane (named Alice) for ten years and have never minded that; I welcome the stability that Alice provides. Yet I was reluctant to use the wheelchair. A universal symbol of disability, the wheelchair represented everything I had fought so hard to overcome.

On Sat. morning as we left the hotel, I told my family that I wanted to use the wheelchair that day. As I sat in it the first time, I thought about my mother destroying those old photographs. I remembered how desperately I had worked to be strong enough to leave Silver behind. At the time, I had thought it was forever.

“Have you named this chair?” Kevin asked.

“Tonto,” I replied. “The Lone Ranger’s friend.” My friend, who would help me have energy for the important events of the day and who would prevent further damage to my weakened leg muscles.

I rode in Tonto to all of Saturday’s events, and I rode across campus on Sunday to Brett’s commencement ceremony.  What a joyous occasion! What a proud grandma! After the diplomas had been granted and the caps flung and the happy tears shed, Tonto waited to carry me to the graduation party.

For two days, Tonto was a true friend, saving me from needless pain and fatigue. At first it had seemed a defeat to return to a wheelchair, even temporarily, especially when polio was the cause. Now I see my decision as a triumph, a victory over fear and dread that enables me to preserve the strength I have left and to fully enjoy life’s celebrations. This time, I’ll keep the picture.


mother’s day 2012


I remember my mother with much love, today and every day. I was lucky to have as my role model a woman who was generous, kind, and full of fun. I am equally fortunate to have a loving daughter and daughter-in-law, both of whom are wonderful mothers. Now my granddaughter, Chelsea, is a mom and handling the role with love and care.

Kids who are doing reports on me often ask me what I am most proud of. They expect me to mention a specific book or award, but I always say I am most proud of having raised two children who are thoughtful, empathetic people who have passed on my most cherished values to their own kids.

Happy mother’s day to all moms, including the four-legged variety.


Good news from Minnesota


Stolen Children, paperbackStolen Children has won the Maud Hart Lovelace Award in Minnesota.

When I was small, Maud Hart Lovelace’s  books were my favorite books. I kept my copies and gave them to Anne, and she passed them along to Brett. I still vividly remember scenes from my favorite parts including when the girls went begging. What a wonderful tribute to an author to have her works enjoyed by three generations of a family, and fondly remembered decades after they were published.

Thank you to the students in Minnesota, who chose Stolen Children as their favorite book this year. I am honored.