I spent the weekend in Richland, WA, celebrating my grandson, Mark’s, 18th birthday. He is a senior in high school this year, and I am proud of him, as I am of all my grandkids. It takes me four and a half hours to drive from my house to my son’s family in Richland – a long, tiring drive by myself, but worth it.
On the way home I thought about how important it is to show up, if possible, for life’s special events. We need to celebrate together whenever we can.
Showing up is also important for a writer. Unless I show up at my computer, day after day, week after week, and put my thoughts into words, I’ll have no book to celebrate a year from now. Without the long drive, I miss the party. Without the long struggle with a first draft, I miss out on publication.
I had a wonderful afternoon at the Children’s Book Shop in Puyallup. How could I not? There were stacks of my books available, platters of cookies, and even a basket of miniature chocolate bars within reach of where I sat.
Best of all, I had a chance to visit with kids, parents, teachers and librarians about my books. I arrived early but there was already an enthusiastic group waiting for me. Here I am with the kids who were first in line to get their books signed.
Today’s mail brought a nice addition to my “awards wall.”
Every year when the local sweet corn is ripe I have Pig Day, when I eat nothing but corn on the cob. For many years, Carl and I had a garden and grew our own corn. Pig Day was always a much-anticipated event. Corn is best when the pot of water is put on to boil before you go outdoors to pick the corn. Then the ears get shucked and dropped immediately into the boiling water. We called it ten-minute-corn: ten minutes from stalk to mouth.
I’m no longer able to tend a garden, and even if I were, the deer would have their own Pig Day before the corn was ready to be picked. (Last night they ate all my phlox – big white blossoms that were hidden behind large rhododendruns next to my front porch.)
Today was Pig Day. I bought the corn at my local farmer’s market. According to their sign, it was grown in Yakima and picked yesterday. Not exactly ten-minute corn but less than 24 hours, and the best I can do. My usual diet rules do not apply on Pig Day, so I ate the corn dripping with melted butter and sprinkled with salt.
Researchers tells us that pigs are extremely intelligent animals – smarter, even, than dogs. Their fondness for corn is proof enough for me.
I always read the ads for back-to-school supplies. To me, these supplies are not backpacks, shoes or jackets. They are pencils, notebooks, pens, and other writing related items. This year I saw an ad that I couldn’t resist. For only ten cents I could purchase four spiral notebooks. I chose the colors carefully, knowing I needed four different colors because I would use the notebooks for four projects.
For another ten cents, I got a pack of those little erasers that go on pencils because the erasers that come on the pencils turn into rocks as soon as I make one mistake on the daily crossword puzzle.
To thank the store for having such great specials, I also bought two reams of computer paper and a new printer cartridge. I’m sure the cost of the cartridge negated any savings I’d made on the notebooks and erasers, but I went home happy, eager to write in a brand new spiral notebook.
I do 99% of my writing on a computer. Correspondence is via e-mail. So why do I covet spiral notebooks? Perhaps it’s nostalgia for the days when I took my kids shopping for school supplies. More likely, it’s because I love the feel, smell and look of real paper. It’s the same reason I prefer bound books over e-books. A blank notebook is an invitation to leisurely record my thoughts and ideas. Much of my notebook writing is done in bed at night, then transcribed to the computer in the morning.
My author copies of Ghost Dog Secrets arrived today. It is always a thrill to finally hold the finished book in my hands. Now I have the fun of giving copies to my family and to anyone who helped me with research. The official release date is Sept. 2.
On Sunday I was the speaker at a state-wide gathering of polio survivors. There were about 90 in attendance and I had a chance to chat with many of them before and after my talk. It is unusual to be with a group who all understand exactly what polio is, as well as the effects of post-polio syndrome (PPS). I felt a sense of community – the kind you get at a large family reunion. We came from different backgrounds but we shared an experience that was central in our lives.
Despite the abundance of new weakness, swallowing difficulties, fatigue, and other PPS symptoms, these folks were upbeat. Polio had not defeated them the first time around, and it isn’t going to beat them now, either.
I bought a trail camera. It’s motion-activated and I set it to take two-minute videos whenever something moves in front of it. I’ve had it on my front porch for two days, aimed at Mr. Stray’s food station. That porch is a lot busier at night than I had realized!
Mr. Stray comes to eat, and so does Woody, the feral cat who lived temporarily in my foster cat room. Dillon, a cat who lives next door, shows up for snacks, and cat food is greedily gobbled by a pair of blue jays. Not just the dry cat food, either. Those blue jays eat tuna! There are so many comings and goings at that cat food station that the memory card in the camera fills up in less than twenty-four hours. I enjoy watching the animals, and I plan to mount the camera in other places around my property to see if I can film some of the wildlife.
I’m doing lots of reading this summer. Much of it is research for a nonfiction book that I’m working on, but some is fiction. Currently I’m reading the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith. Reading those novels is much like watching the films captured by my trail camera. I get small, intimate glimpses into the lives of his characters.
My granddaughter, Brett, visited the national library of Egypt last week. When she went in the youth department, she looked to see if they had any of my books, and found a copy of Nightmare Mountain.
A distant cousin let me know she buys my books in Paris, where she lives.
A chapter from Five Pages a Day: A Writer’s Journey is being included in Houghton Mifflin’s new reading textbook for Grade 5, in both the Spanish edition and the English edition that’s used in the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth. It’s the chapter about my Dog Newspaper.
The only countries besides my own that I’ve visited are Canada and Mexico, so it is exciting to think that my books are being read on other continents.
I received a royalty check yesterday for “Cemeteries Are a Grave Matter,” a one-act play that I published more than thirty years ago. The statement showed where the play had been produced in the last year, and one production was in a town close enough to where I live that, had I known about it, I would have attended.
This has happened many times with my plays; I find out about the show after the production is over, when it’s too late for me to go. Even though this play has been produced every year, some years many times, I have never seen a production of it! I have never seen two of my other plays, either.