And the winner is …

Drumroll, please!

Beanie votes

Look at all those names in there!  Dozens and dozens and DOZENS of names!   Oh, and did you notice the hat?  It’s my new favorite.

Beanie

Isn’t it cute?  It kind of looks like a tea cozy in this picture, but it looks better on, trust me.  Wish I could say that I was the one who knit it, but I have to give credit to the good folks at SmartWool this time around. I’ve worn their fabulous socks for years, but only recently discovered their delicious hats.

I’m dragging this out to torture you, can you tell?

 OK, down to business, time to choose a name…

Picking a name

And the winner is …

Samantha

Samantha!

The quote she chose as her theme for 2014 is:  “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”  — Martha Washington

Great quote, Samantha!  I’m putting that one in my “keeper” file.  In fact, I’m putting ALL the quotes that ALL of you shared in my “keeper” file.  They were just wonderfully inspiring.

Congratulations, Samantha!  I’ll be contacting you directly for mailing information for your prize — a complete set of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series, autographed, of course!

MDBC Boxed Set 2013

Cover reveal #1

Ta da!

ABSOLUTELY TRULY cover

 

I promised you a cover reveal, and here it is. Isn’t it breathtaking? 

I am just over the MOON about this cover! Could it possibly be any more gorgeous? Or intriguing? It’s absolutely truly perfect!

And did you notice the owl?  There’s one on the back cover as well:

ABSOLUTELY TRULY back cover

(By the way, if you click on these pictures, they should enlarge for you so you can see all the glorious detail.)

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may remember that right around this time last year, I spotted an owl in my backyard. (Click here to read about it.) I was flailing around with ABSOLUTELY TRULY at the time, my writerly tires stuck in the mud. I was desperately in need of something to get the story going again, but I wasn’t sure what that something was until it arrived on my doorstep. What followed was some happy research (click here for the lowdown on that) and a much better book — which you’ll be able to read next November!

I know that’s a long time away, but I couldn’t resist sharing this beautiful cover with you. I promise to post a sneak peek of the first chapter or two in a bit here. We’re still tweaking a few things, but look for it in a few weeks.

And guess what? I have TWO BOOKS coming out in 2014, so a second cover reveal will also be coming along soon!

 

 

Saturday Story Starter

Welcome to the Saturday Story Starter!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one, and I apologize — we’re long overdue for a writing date together. Too many deadlines + too much travel = crazy life! I’ve so enjoyed all the stories you’ve shared so far (click here and here and here and read the comments field to check them out) — I just love the hum and buzz of collective creativity!

As you know, the Saturday Story Starter is purely for fun, just as a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise!

Here’s this week’s photo:

Heceta Head

If you click on it, you should be able to enlarge it for a better look. It’s a great shot, isn’t it? ::pats self on back::  My husband and I spent a week on the Oregon Coast recently, which is one of my favorite places in the whole world. We hiked and read and ate fabulous seafood and napped and watched old movies. Bliss. One of our excursions took us to this beautiful, windswept spot. It’s called Heceta Head. The fog started to lift shortly before I took this picture, but it still has an air of mystery about it, doesn’t it?

STORY STARTER:  Write about this place. Maybe something happens, or maybe you just describe it for us. It’s up to you. If you need a jumpstart, here’s a first line you can use:

The storm blew out to sea shortly before dawn…

Ready, set, write!

Saturday Story Starter

Welcome back to the Saturday Story Starter!

Thank you all for the stories you’ve shared so far (click here and here in the comments field to check them out) — I just love the hum and buzz of collective creativity!

As you know, the Saturday Story Starter is purely for fun, just as a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise!

Here’s this week’s photo:

Strawberries
Strawberries happen to be my favorite fruit. These are Hood Strawberries, which are native to Oregon, where I live. They are UNBELIEVABLY delicious! They rarely make it over the border because they’re too delicate to travel, and they’re best eaten within 24 hours of picking. (Ours barely make it home from the farm stand before we’ve already started digging in.) They make the world’s best jam, too. Ooo, and homemade strawberry ice cream? There’s nothing better in the world….

STORY STARTER:  Write about your favorite fruit. Be sure and tap into the five senses as you write, as this really helps breathe life into words on a page (or a computer screen!). In fact, using the five senses should be a primary tool in every writer’s toolbox. The more you as a writer engage your reader’s senses, the more present your reader will be in your story, and the more alive and real it will be to him or her. So now, with this story starter, help us vividly SEE the fruit, SMELL it, FEEL it, TASTE it.  (We may or may not HEAR it, depending on whether it’s crunchy or soft.)

You can simply describe your favorite fruit for us, or, if you’d like, you can turn it into a story. It’s up to you.

Ready, set, write!

 

 

An owlish gift

I’ve always loved owls.

Owl sculpture

 

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…

Owl January 2012

Success!

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.

 

Monday musings: Inside the shell of character

I love buying eggs from my next-door neighbor.

Aren’t they lovely?  So many different colors! On the outside, anyway — inside, eggs are eggs.  Lisa has at least four varieties of hens running around her yard, maybe even five or six.  It’s so much fun to look out my kitchen window and see them scurrying to and fro in search of bugs and other good things to eat.

We used to have chickens, too, but they eventually went into chicken retirement.  (You can read about that here.)  They provided not only eggs (and amusement), but also food for thought.  Click here for a link to a blog post from a few years back that was inspired by a little backyard observation.

That’s the best kind of observation, really, isn’t it?

So what does this motley dozen nesting on my kitchen table tell me today?  Well, perhaps that despite our outward trappings–race, nationality, gender, faith, age, political leanings, etc.–on the inside, where it really counts, we’re all the same.  As a writer, I’ve learned that it’s the inside of my characters that counts, too. Whether I’m writing about a girl on an adventure at sea in 1835 (THE VOYAGE OF PATIENCE GOODSPEED), a mouse who dreams of being a secret agent and the fifth grade boy who helps her out (THE BLACK PAW), modern-day stepsisters on the receiving end of a spell gone terribly wrong (ONCE UPON A TOAD), or a whole cast of moms and daughters who end up reading the classics together (THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB), it’s the heart of the matter that’s most important.

Sure, I need to pay attention to details like dress and appearance and mannerisms and all that.  It’s part of my job (and a very fun part, I might add) to make the window dressing as interesting and alluring as possible.  But what is it that really connects us to those who live out their lives on the written page? What is it that makes some characters wrap themselves around our hearts?  Think Charlotte and Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web.  Or India Opal Buloni in Because of Winn-Dixie.  Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.  

It’s what’s on the inside, isn’t it?  It’s their hopes and fears and worries, their dreams and yearnings.  Those “inside the egg” things that each one of us can relate to, and that ultimately connect us all.  So when you’re writing, be sure to crack open that shell and breathe life into your character from the inside.

Give your character a heart, and it will speak to the heart in your reader.

 

 

 

 

 

Little snow, big snow

Have you ever had one of those writing days (weeks, months) where it seems it’s all you can do to eke out a paltry handful of words worth keeping?

The muse is napping, perhaps, or has skived off to go bowling with friends, leaving you to sit and stare at an (almost) blank page. Frustrating, isn’t it?

When this happens to me, I always think of my Nova Scotia grandmother.  Her name was Eva MacDougall, but we called her Nana Mac.  Nana Mac was full of sayings–some salty, some hilarious, some wise.  One of her wisest was “little snow, big snow,” which she attributed to the Mi’kmaq, a First Nations people from her region of Canada.

“Do you see that snow?” she’d say, looking out our window.  (I grew up in New England, and Nana Mac often came down to “the Boston States,” as she called New Hampshire and Massachusetts.)  I’d squint, because the stuff sifting down from the sky hardly qualified as snow.  A flurry at best, maybe.

“Little snow, big snow,” she’d tell me, nodding sagely.  “It adds up, you’ll see.”  She’d go on to explain that the biggest snowfall accumulations often came as a result of the smallest, finest flakes piling up gradually over time, while the big, fat flakes that arrived with such pomp and circumstance — look! snow! — often petered out quickly and melted away.

Nana Mac was usually right.

So I keep this in mind when I’m writing, and the going is slow.  Word by word, snowflake by snowflake, a story is built.  Stay the course; just keep writing.

Little snow, big snow.

 

Kate the Great

Remember the 12-year-old go-getter from Ottawa I told you about recently? The one who dreamed up a fashion show fundraiser after being inspired by my book Much Ado About Anne?

She succeeded beyond her wildest expectations!

 

I’ll let Kate speak for herself.  Here’s what she wrote to me (I’m posting it here with her permission):

“The show went absolutely amazingly!!  It was a smash hit, and it was totally sold out with standing room only!!   We raised approximately $8,175.15.  That’s three thousand over our goal!!  YAY!!  I arrived along with models, hair stylists, and makeup artists at 9 a.m. to begin hair and makeup.  It was a crazy but amazing experience.  I was running around backstage, cueing models, cueing our emcee.  It was AWESOME!!  I totally loved the atmosphere and have started looking into doing it annually!!”

How cool is THAT? SRO and a whopping sum for charity!  Kate, my hat is off to you  — you are an inspiring example of someone who didn’t just dream big, but was willing to roll up her sleeves and work hard to turn that dream into a reality.

Here are some fun links you can visit to hear from Kate herself, see photos of the event, and get the inside scoop from a few of the designers who showcased their work:

Kate’s interview with the Ottawa Citizen

Kate’s interview on “A Morning” Ottawa

Kate’s interview with 2LiveViv

The Bias Cut

Jana Hanzel

Centretown News article

Metro News pictures

Event recap from blogger Erica on Fashion



 

 

 

Hats off to an awesome young Canadian fan!

I’d like to introduce you to someone special today.  Her name is Kate Reeve, and she’s a powerhouse.

She’s also 12.  Remember that, OK?

Kate is a Mother-Daughter Book Club fan.  So much so, that when she read Much Ado About Anne and got to the part where the girls decide to put on a fashion show to raise money for — shhhh! no spoilers! — she thought hey, I’d like to do that.  I want to put on a charity event to help someone in need.

Now, most people (like, for instance, me) would have a thought like that and then go on their merry way. But not Kate.  She decided to turn that dream into a reality.  So she wrote to me last summer, telling me that my book had inspired her to try and do something to raise money for a children’s hospice, and asking for my advice.

“At first my friends thought I was insane,” she wrote.  “(Maybe they still do!!) especially after I told them I got the idea from a book. (“It’s fiction!!” was one of their main arguments!)”

Funny AND determined — a lethal combination.  I encouraged and applauded her, of course, but I have a confession to make:  I thought she was too young to pull it off.  She was only 12, remember?

Boy, was I wrong.

By the time I heard from Kate again, she was sewing like mad, she’d set a date (Sunday February 20th) for her Fashion Show and rented a venue:  the Glebe Community Centre in Ottawa.   (Did I mention that Kate is from Ottawa?  She gets extra brownie points for this as I have a special place in my heart for all things Canadian, since my mother was from Nova Scotia.)

By now she’s realized that her dream was snowballing into a bigger reality than even she could have imagined, and that “there was no way enough dresses would be made in time for the show. So, I set to work. I’ve emailed, called, bullied, and beleaguered the fashion designers of Ottawa to show their clothes at our show.”  That was in November.  She’d had one yes and one no.   Fast-forward to last month, and she has not one but FIVE of Canada’s top designers lined up for her charity event, along with professional models and hair stylists and even a celebrity emcee — longtime CTV Ottawa anchor Max Keeping — all of them donating their time and talent so that 100% of the proceeds will go to Kate’s charities of choice:  Roger’s House and Canuck Place.

Is this girl AMAZING or what?

Oh, how I wish I could be there to witness her triumph!  I’ll be with her in spirit, though, and am donating an autographed set of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series for her Silent Auction.  Hats off to you, Kate — you are truly an inspiration to all of us!

And please, any of you who live near Ottawa — go support her event.  Here’s the information:

Fashion Show for Funds

Date: Sunday, February 20th, 2011
Where: Glebe Community Centre (175 Third avenue)
Designers: Rachel SinShweta WahiAmber WatkinsJana HanzelRubin Kooner
Time: 1:00-2:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20 for adults, $10 for students, free for children 5 and under.

FOR INTERVIEWS, TICKETS, MEDIA PASSES, AND MORE INFORMATION:
Email mayreeve@rogers.com or call 613-730-5074

Little House on the Cul-de-sac

There’s something about summer that makes me feel all Laura Ingalls Wilderish.  I get in a “Little House” frame of mind come July every year, and there’s nothing to be done for it but whip out my apron and start stirring up good things.

July is when the berries start ripening in droves.  June is a tease — just strawberries, mostly — although here in Oregon, that means Hood strawberries, the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else.  Intensely sweet and highly perishable, they rarely make it to stores and have to be hunted down at Farmer’s Markets or, if you’re lucky (which I am), at the neighborhood berry stand that magically appears every summer in an unpaved parking lot near our local supermarket.

June means bowls of strawberries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It means homemade strawberry shortcake (my husband’s favorite) for Father’s Day.  Some years it means strawberry jam, too, although this year I was too busy with work to put any up.

July, though, means Berries with a capital B — boysenberries, loganberries, raspberries, marionberries, tayberries, sylvan blackberries, and whatever other berries Mother Nature can dream up.  I was determined not to let this bounty, too, slip by, and when a window of opportunity opened up this past weekend, I grabbed it and my husband (aka Pa Frederick), and made a dash for our favorite berry farm …

… where we picked gooseberries and boysenberries.

Oregon boysenberries

Boysenberries  make the BEST jam — although marionberries run a close second.

Ma Frederick's Boysenberry Jam

Oddly enough, boysenberries also make good picture books.

Coming in October 2010!

I got the idea for this book a couple of years ago, at the very same berry farm.  Writers fool around with words in their heads a lot (if you ever notice a vacant expression on our faces, that’s what we’re doing), and that day I got to noodling around with the word “boysenberry” while my hands were busy picking.  Wouldn’t it be funny if there were girlsenberries? I thought.  Which of course led to, And wouldn’t it be funny if you could pick babyberries? That was it, I was off and running, and voila! Babyberry Pie was born.

No picture books were born this weekend, just a most satisfying cupboard full of jam and chutney (gooseberries make fabulous chutney).  Oh, and we picked up some rhubarb, too, which I turned into Rhubarb Custard Streusel Pie.

I used Jennifer Jacobson’s recipe (thanks, JJ!),  but since I only had one pie crust in the freezer (I make several at a time and freeze the extras), and was too lazy to make another one, I whipped up some streusel topping instead.  You can use it atop just about any fruit pie — trust me, it’s delicious.  Here’s the recipe:

Streusel Topping

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour

Mix together until topping is the consistency of coarse bread crumbs.  Sprinkle evenly atop pie, cover with foil, and bake as usual, according to the directions for whatever pie you’re making.  Remove foil for the last 10 minutes or so of baking, so that streusel turns golden brown.

Yum.

All in all, a most satisfying weekend.  Ma Ingalls would definitely approve.