ONCE UPON A TOAD has been nominated for an Oregon Book Award!
I’m doing the happy dance today for sure! Click here for a list of the other finalists — I’m thrilled to be in such distinguished company!
I’ve always loved owls.
Here’s one I bought in England when I lived there as a girl with my family years ago. I remember saving up my allowance (“pocket money,” the British call it) for it, and the satisfaction I felt when it was finally mine. He’s been perched on my desk ever since, his plump little self a talisman of sorts who keeps watch over me as I write. I often find myself picking him him up, my fingers idly seeking out the familiar contours of his smooth terracotta body as I ponder and dream.
I’m not sure what it is about owls that appeals to me. Is it their sturdily elegant oval shape? Their expressive faces? Those beautiful, unblinking eyes that watch over the world in silence?
Maybe it’s the mystery to owls that I find irresistible — their haunting call, or the way they whoosh silently out of nowhere on those great, wide wings.
Which is exactly what happened to me last night at dusk. I was in the back yard, playing with our dogs, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a dark shape soar overhead and land in the maple tree. At first I thought it was a hawk. We have a lot of those here in the Pacific Northwest. But then I saw that unmistakeable silhouette. An owl!
He was so beautiful that for a long moment I couldn’t breathe. Then I whipped my phone out of my pocket and took a picture. In the fading light, the first shot looked like a blob on a branch, so I turned the flash on, hoping to catch the reflection of his eyes…
Isn’t he gorgeous? (For some reason, I’m convinced it was a he.) I still can’t believe he was right there in my yard! It’s not like I live out in the country (I call our neighborhood “rural suburbia”). What a gift!
I soon realized that he was indeed a gift — from my muse. She (my muse is definitely a she) can be a lazy sort, who often skives off heaven-knows-where when I most need her. Like now, when I’m writing a book.
Last night, though, she delivered. The story I’m working on at the moment desperately needs an owl, and I didn’t even know it. Until she sent me one.