Looking for Maddy, Jessie, Anna and Katelyn….

I’m FINALLY all caught up with my mountain of email!  Wheeeeee!  Will shortly be tackling my snail mail pile as well, never fear.  Meanwhile, I’ve had a few bouncebacks (emails that came back to me saying that the address is incorrect).  If you are Maddy, Jessie, Anna or Katelyn, and you’ve written to me in the last couple of months and haven’t received an answer, and your email address contains any of these…

flip4gymnastics9
aawilo2
phillslover

… would you please contact me again, and DOUBLE CHECK that your address is correct so that I can email you back?

You all know how sad it makes me when I can’t send an answer to one of you…

Nest update

I count four little beaks, how about you?

Mama Robin is keeping a close watch on me as I watch her and her babies …

 

It’s been a busy day here in the Frederick backyard.  The nest is bulging with rapidly-growing baby robins, who look to me like they’re about ready to fledge (leave the nest).  I spotted a couple of way-too-interested crows hanging around earlier (unfortunately, crows like to snack on baby birds), so I’ve stationed myself close to the nest with my laptop, a glass of ice water, and, believe it or not, a canoe paddle just in case I need to swat at one of said crows.

I have to go inside to Skype with a mother-daughter book club in Wisconsin, so I’m going to let Bonnie take over for nest guard duty for a while.  Talk about teamwork!

 

 

More fabulous fan art

My mailbox is overflowing again with all sorts of goodies — what creative readers I have!  Take a look:

That’s a picture of Megan Wong by the talented Emily.  Lovely!  And check out these collages — I love how vibrant and unique each of them is.  This first one is from Mariah:

And this one is from Hannah:

Absolutely yummy, both of them!

Here’s a new screensaver from Sarah — totally cool stuff…

How do you girls DO these things?  I consider myself a bit of a techie, but there’s now way I could figure this out, that’s for sure.

Carlee sent me a trio of fun tidbits, all inspired by my books.  There’s this one:

And this one (which Cassidy would totally love and want for her wall):

And finally this one, for all you Francophiles (look it up) reading this blog!

Click here to view a very cool slideshow that Alaina put together on JANE EYRE for a school project for those of you getting a jumpstart on WISH YOU WERE EYRE.  Nice work!

Thank you so much, Emily, Mariah, Hannah, Sarah, Carlee & Alaina!!!  ♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

Travels with Heather, Part 2

Still with me?  Onward!  (Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, today’s post is guaranteed 100% potty-free…)

The last of my trio of recent trips was a local one.  Well, sort of local.  Long-distance local.  Because PIES & PREJUDICE was nominated for an Oregon Book Award this year (my friend Emily Whitman’s wonderful book WILDWING was the winner), I was invited by Literary Arts, the organization that sponsors the awards, to go on a mini-book tour.  I jumped at the chance! For one thing, it’s an honor to be asked, and for another, it’s just plain fun.

So I packed my suitcase, and off I went to a stretch of the Oregon coastline I’ve never seen before:  North Bend and Coos Bay.

I have to admit it’s cool to blow into town and see your “wanted” poster plastered everywhere. Here’s one on the window of Ciccarelli’s, the restaurant where we ate the first night.  (Yum!)  One of the best things about these tours is the chance to get to know some other Oregon writers.  I was incredibly fortunate to tag along with two delightful and incredibly talented people — George Estreich, whose book The Shape of the Eye, a moving, heartfelt memoir about raising a daughter with Down Syndrome, won the award for creative nonfiction; and Geri Doran, a poet whose lovely collection Sanderlings was a finalist in the poetry category.

Our fearless guide for the tour was Susan Denning from Literary Arts.  She’s a peach.

And she was a willing partner-in-crime, too, when I suggested we skive off and do a little sight-seeing.  We made a beeline for the ocean, of course, and landed in a great spot called Shore Acres State Park.  Can you believe this view?

There used to be a fancy mansion perched on this cliff, the home of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis Simpson, but it’s long gone.   Too bad.  Like Emma Hawthorne, I’m a sucker for old houses, and I would love to have seen it…

All that remains are pictures, alas.  Oh, and the estate’s formal gardens.  Which brought Susan and me to our first dilemma of the morning — which to visit first, the gardens or the beach?

We opted for the gardens.  All I can say is, wow!

I want a fountain like this one in my garden:

And rhododendrons like these:

And a Japanese pond like this one, please:

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

There was a greenhouse, too, where we admired a variety of beautiful flowers …

… and gawked at a VERY odd plant that looked like a pussywillow wearing a feather boa:

Does anyone know what this is?  I’m clueless.

When we were done touring the garden, it was time to hit Simpson’s Beach.  Oh joy!  We were the only ones there!

Is this gorgeous or what?!

Such a stunning setting definitely called for kicking back, relaxing, and soaking up a few of those rare Oregon rays …


It’s times like this that I’m convinced I have the best job in the world.

I could have lingered in this beautiful spot all day, but there were workshops and readings and school visits ahead, so Susan and I reluctantly pried ourselves away and headed back to civilization. I taught a writing workshop that afternoon, followed by a group signing at the lovely North Bend Public Library, then the following day I visited a couple of schools, including North Bend Middle School, where I hobnobbed with the fabulous librarians from there and from North Bay Elementary School:

Oops, there’s that purple shirt again!  Where’s Megan when I need her?  I really have to go shopping…

The students gave me a fantastic welcome, as you can see.

They’d all read my SPY MICE books, and I had a blast talking to them about my path to becoming an author, and about books and writing.  And then we brainstormed some fractured fairy tales together, which was great fun.

The kids also made some beautiful notes and letters and artwork for me, too, which totally bowled me over:

You can’t tell from the picture, but this one below is 3-D!  Glory’s (the mouse’s) nose and ears have a sort of sandy texture added to them.  Really cute!

An entire class collaborated on that one, and on this amazing collage below.  I’m planning on getting it framed to hang on my office wall:

See why I’m convinced I have the best job in the world?

Travels with Heather

Oh my goodness, have I been busy!  Three trips in a row.  I promised I’d tell you all about my travels,  so make yourself a cup of tea and settle in because this is going to be a long one….

Before we get started, I want to share a fun picture of me with one of you at my recent writing workshop at Powell’s.  This young lady (who I think prefers to remain anonymous — feel free to introduce yourself to everyone if you don’t, though, okay?) drove all the way down from the Olympic Peninsula up in Washington State, which is about three hours away.  Whew. Talk about dedicated!  We had fun writing and chatting, and I was thrilled to meet her!  (Love the hat, too.)

And now we return to our regularly scheduled program.

First stop, Boston!  I flew out to attend my nephew’s graduation from Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts, a really beautiful part of the state.  Here he is with his family:

Doesn’t everyone look happy and proud?  Especially my lovely sister, who is absolutely glowing in her lovely red dress!

Here’s my nephew with his awesome ROUND diploma — how cool is that?

I am so proud of him!  He’s a fine writer, among other things, and he has a bright future ahead of him.

The day before graduation, we all had fun poking around the campus.  Guess what I discovered was there?  Does anybody recognize this car?

It belongs to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art!  Of course we had to go right in and look around.  There were many old friends, including this one…

I think I read THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR about five million times to my boys when they were little.  Eric Carle was and is one of our family’s favorite picture book artists–we adore his books!  Click here for a cool video of him reading the book aloud.  And for you artists out there, here’s another of him talking about the artistic process behind that book, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary!  (There are more photos and videos of Eric at work here, too — it’s well worth spending some time on his website if you’re interested in writing and/or illustrating picture books.)

Not surprisingly, the museum Eric founded is light and bright and filled with color.  A real treat for the eye.  We spent a very happy hour or so exploring (and spending money in the gift shop).  Right before we left, I discovered another fun surprise — in the ladies’ room, of all places!

I laughed out loud when I spotted this!  It’s a stall designed specifically for toddler girls.  The potty is close to the ground, and the seat looks a bit like a flower blossom.  Very user friendly!  The surrounding walls are decorated with cheerful tiles with Eric’s artwork on them:

I wish that my wee niece could have been with me that day — she would have loved to “visit” this stall!

And since we’re on the subject of potties, I have to tell you a funny story.  After graduation, we all drove into Amherst for a fancy dinner to celebrate.  Delicious meal, great company, but the WEIRDEST LADIES’ ROOM I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE.  I kid you not.  Here it is:

Bad cellphone picture of weirdest ladies' room ever

Um, OK.  One bathroom, two potties.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

(And no, I’m not going to tell you whether my sister and I spent quality time in here together.  I’ll leave that up to your imagination.)

I had a flashback to when I was five, and flew up to Nova Scotia with my grandmother to visit our Canadian relatives.  Her brother lived way out in the country on a farm that didn’t have indoor plumbing.  Ahem.  Instead, they had what’s called a “two-seater” outhouse in the backyard.  Yep.  Kind of like this, only no white porcelain…

Moving right along here, after I got home from Boston I turned right around and packed my suitcase for Seattle, where my husband and I went to visit our son.  It was a gorgeous weekend, which isn’t always the case in that city.  This time, though, it was sunny, and I have the pictures to prove it!

Space Needle in Seattle

We drove down to the Pacific Science Center to see the King Tut exhibit, and spent a little time wandering around the park outside.  I spotted this cool sculpture and had to take a picture:

The King Tutankhamen exhibit was AWESOME.  I’ve always been fascinated with Ancient Egypt, thanks to some grade school field trips to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which has an amazing Egyptian collection, including a cool mummy exhibit.  The other thing that triggered my interest was reading THE EGYPT GAME by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.  Anybody else know that book?  I think I read it about as many times as I read THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR to our boys!

Anyway, thanks to those childhood influences, for a long time I wanted to be an Egyptologist, if the whole writing thing didn’t work out.  (Either that or a spy.)

All things considered, I’m glad the writing thing worked out …

We couldn’t use flash photography inside the museum, but I did manage to get some pretty decent shots:

Classic, elegant Egyptian artwork.  Gorgeous!

One of my favorite things in the exhibit was the jewelry.  Check out this necklace:

Here’s an even fancier specimen — a collar-style necklace made for Princess Neferuptah:

All that gold!  All that intricate beadwork!  Amazing…

Here’s an earring.  I was amazed at how big it is — seriously, I think this sucker would dangle down far enough brush the shoulder of the person wearing it.  I was curious to know how heavy it is, too, but of course there’s no way I would have been allowed to handle a THREE THOUSAND YEAR OLD earring!

The design is surprisingly modern, isn’t it?  I have several friends who are jewelers, and I can well imagine any one of them crafting something like this today.

And now for a man’s necklace — called a “pectoral” because it was found on the chest of one of the mummies in the tomb:

I adore that trio of purple scarabs.  I covet that trio of purple scarabs.  I’ve been in a purple mood lately, as you may be able to tell from the purple shirt I’m wearing in the picture at the top of this post.  In fact, this little item would go really well with that shirt.  Hmmm.  Too bad it’s a priceless antique kept in a well-protected vault…

Enough jewelry!  How about some fashion footwear?  Here’s what your well-dressed mummy is wearing these days:

Yes, folks, those are sandals made of GOLD.  Royal sandals. They were found on King Tut’s mummy and are definitely not for the likes of you and me…

Another thing a mummy would need, when he awoke in the afterlife, was someplace to sleep, right?  How about a 3,000-year-old bed?

This really amazed me.  A piece of FURNITURE — crafted from wood and woven reeds — that survived intact in a tomb, since Bible times.  Astonishing!  Here’s a closer look at it:

Can you believe that wickerwork?  And here’s a chair to match:

This would look really nice on my patio.  I could sit in it while wearing my purple shirt and the purple scarab necklace…

Just two more pictures and we’re done for today.  Did you know that Ancient Egyptians loved their pets, too?  So much so that they wanted to take them with them into the afterlife.  Cats, especially.  Cats were an important part of their society and religion, and sometimes were mummified after death just like humans.  This limestone sarcophagus (tomb or coffin), made for Prince Thutmose’s cat, knocked my socks off with its beauty:

And finally, because I can’t resist, and because we seem to have a theme going here in this post, I’ll say farewell until tomorrow, when I’ll tell you about the third of my three trips, and leave you with a picture of …

… an Ancient Egyptian potty!

 

Kind words

I’m b-a-c-k!  Did you miss me?  I’ve been on a trio of back-to-back trips, and am home again for a bit before I hit the road once more.  Busy summer ahead…

Before I tell you about my travels (look for more on that tomorrow), I want to share some lovely reviews of ONCE UPON A TOAD.  Thank you, bloggers extraordinaire!

Click here to read one from Hannah, and here to read another from Book Aunt (love that name!).  Texas librarian Pamela Thompson, YA reviewer for the El Paso Times, was generous with her praise:

“Clever, cute, quirky, and good clean fun, Once Upon a Toad delivers non-stop laughs and outrageous antics!”

Wow — thank you, Pamela!  (Click here to read the rest of her review.)

Flamingnet Teen Book Reviews loved it, too — click here to read what this 13-year-old reviewer had to say.  And check this out — Flamingnet selected my book for a “Top Choice” award!

I’m blushing from all the praise…