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1. What I'm Taking to Uni

So this past few months, many exciting things have been happening for me, which have been better documented on instagram and twitter. I had another packed Edinburgh Fringe, full of brilliant comedians, poets, and theatre pieces. I've had some great times with my friends, which is just as well because we're now scattered across the country and the continent,  because we're all off to uni! I can't believe I was in Year 8 when I started this blog and I now I've got a place at my first choice university to study Classics and French, but hey, time flies!

Along the many bags of clothes and equipment I have packed before I move into the college tomorrow, obviously, I have books, and I thought I'd share what I'm taking. But first, exciting news... 


I got nominated, alongside Sally of The Dark Dictator, and Andrew of The Pewter Wolf, in the UKYA Blogger Awards for Champion of Diversity! Thank you for everyone who nominated me, in despite of the fact that my championing of diverse books, at least this past couple of years, hasn't really been via my blog, more in person- see my TEDx Talk on why you should read diversely, which I might vlog some day seeing as I'm not sure what happened to the footage, the We Need Diverse Books board we put up at my school that stayed in a main corridor for over a year, and anyone who has read Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda because they asked me for a recommendation and that's been my go to book to pass on. I hope to be able to step up both my blog and my promotion of a range of books in the future, and it's nice to have a little spur to do so. And congrats to everyone else who got nominated, in all categories! You can find a list of all categories and nominees here (until it gets buried when they tweet other things).


The main post is under the cut- the books I'm  taking-and hopefully keeping up there, if they fit on whatever shelving they give me!




My Course Books

The books that I'll be studying. I've read all the required bits, so here's a summary of what they're about  and what I thought of them.


  • The Poems of Catullus, translated by James Minchie. My copy of this is falling apart, so I put it in a binder ring. I love most of Catullus' works-it's often funny or emotional or both- he crosses the line a lot though!
  • Juvenal's Satires, translated by Peter Green. Using anecdotes, it reads like a long list of complaints about Roman society, pointing out all the various moral failings that have come through.
  • En Attendant Godot (Waiting For Godot) by Samuel Beckett. It's a play of two men who are waiting for Godot. They contemplate life, meet a handful other people, and wonder why they do so. It feels like Rosencrantz and Guildernstern, a lot of talk, less things happening, good to study, probably boring to watch.
  • Supplement au Voyage de Bouganville (Supplement to Bougainville's Journey) by Denis Diderot, I liked the depiction of Tahitan society, and also the way it contrast Tahitian and European society and ideals.
  • The Poems of Propertius, translated by H. E. Butler, of which I read Book 1. Mostly love poetry, describing his relationship with Cynthia, but there's a couple of poems for friends too.  
  • Essais (Essays), of which I read Des Cannibales by Michel de Montaigne, Again contrasting  European society with another. I liked the challenge of reading the 16th century French.
  • The Satyricon by Petronius. A pair of lovers go wandering around the continent, meeting the weirdest of society. Ends abruptly, though probably due to losing the text, but the various episodes, satirising different figures in society, are...interesting.
  • Cicero's Defence Speeches, of which I read Pro Caelio. Here Cicero is trying to defend Caelius against charges of violence andmurder, which he does by presenting Caelius as a young man of outstanding virtue, even if he has made some mistakes, and by presenting Clodia Metelli, whose evidence would be important to the case, as a whore. It's funny in some places, misogynistic in many more, and is basically blaming a woman for anything a man does wrong.
  • The Aeneid by Virgil. Following Aeneas, a Trojan noble who flees Troy after its defeat, as he wanders, searching for a new place for his people to settle down. A fair bit of travelling gives way to some really graphically battles. I have a lot of love for Camilla, the warrior woman who's featured in book 11.
  • Phedre by Jean Racine. The mythological story of a queen who falls in love with her stepson and the husband/father's rashness is presented here in a play. I enjoyed the rhythm of this as I read this aloud, and I liked how it didn't completely villainise Phedre (ok, the blame all shifts on to the Nurse but I feel Phedre gets presented in a worse light in Euripedes' and Seneca's versions so it's nice she gets a little more sympathy here)

Supplementary Books 

Books kind of relating to Classics and French, but not directly relevant (this term)- intended for when I want to do something different but also feel productive! 
  • Les Femmes Savantes by Moliere
  • Les  Fleurs de Mal by Charles Baudelaire
  • Les Mains Sales by Jean Paul Sartre
  • World Mythology by Mark Daniels
  • Bisexuality in the Ancient World by Eve Cantarella
  • The Latin Love Poets by R.O.A.M. Lyne
  • Frangine by Marion Brunet (and then I can finally give this back to Caroline- sorry for keeping this so long!)
  • Goddesses, Whores, Wives, & Slaves by Sarah Pomeroy

Fun Books

The ones that will be for pleasure, for review, and for hopeful enjoyment!

  • The Hypnotist by Laurence Anholt. Set in 1960s America, this historical thriller plus hypnotism looks intriguing.
  • Life: A User's Manuel by Georges Perec. I picked this up for the title. I'm hoping for good things from the many many characters.
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. I haven't read Everything, Everything yet either, but I've heard lots of people enjoyed it.
  • Girl Trouble by Carol Dyhouse. A looking at how society perceives women and what they do throughout the 20th century.
  • Daughters of Time - A History Girls Anthology. I love how there's a range of time periods the women at the centre of each story is drawn from, and a range of things they do. 
  • The Genius and the Goddess by Alduous Huxley. I got this as a surprise gift, so I don't know what to expect. I didn't mind Brave New World, and I'm hoping i like this as much as I did that, or more.
  • As I Descended by Robin Talley. This is the one book I've been waiting for all year, and I'm slightly scared to read it with such high expectations (lesbian contemporary Macbeth!). I'll get to it soon though.
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Between Shades of Grey was such a beautiful book, I have high hopes for this one as well.
  • Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton. A mute girl falls for the new girl. I remember getting excited for this, but never getting round to it.
  • The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch. I love this fantasy series with the detailed world building and the clever characters (especially the ship of lady pirates introduced in book 2). I also hear we get to meet the main character's lost love in this book, something I've been waiting for.
I know I'm being very overoptimistic with my for fun books here, considering I have eight weeks and a lot more reading I'll get once I'm there, but at least I won't be running out of things to get through!  What books would you suggest I get through first? And what would you take from a packed to-read shelf to last you for a couple of months?

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2. Helping flooded schools in Louisiana


The devastation brought about by the flooding in Louisiana is almost too much to contemplate. Earlier this week, I heard a school librarian interviewed on NPR, and thought about offering him some books, but then couldn't find the story when I went to the NPR website. This morning a couple of people brought a post to my attention. A middle school was asking for books to replace those they lost - and three of the titles were mine! I just boxed up 15 copies of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die and 15 copies of The Body in the Woods to send them. Sure, it's a drop in the bucket compared to an ocean of need, but I'm still happy to be doing something. If you would like to help, see: https://lumoslibriblog.wordpress.com or http://www.katemessner.com/rebuilding-school-classroom-libraries-in-louisiana/

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3. Llamas - 10 years later!

The local news just closed with a llama story.  It wasn't even a local story.  And the llamas didn't crash the wedding - there was a llama show next to a wedding.  Most of the local news anymore is made up of anything with interesting photos or videos. Not actual news.

For years, the word llama has made me laugh.

Almost exactly ten years ago, I posted this:
My husband is watching the 10 pm news. I've given up watching the TV news and now just listen to NPR when I'm driving or making dinner.

The announcer just said, "When we come back, learn why this llama paid a visit to a group of senior citizens." The B-roll showed a brown wooly llama, wearing a harness, nuzzling a confused eldery woman as she sat on a couch. And this was only 15 minutes into the program, when they should still be doing some hard news. They hadn't even talked about the Middle East yet.

Which reminds me...

A few months ago, my brother called me to tell me about his day. He sells farm equipment. He had gone into a barn trying to find a farmer, when he heard an unearthly groaning from a corner of the barn. It was two llamas, mating.

He told me a little more than I really wanted to know about llamas mating, esp. since he's my brother. There's something off-putting about discussing llama sex with a blood relative. Or, in this case, listening to a one-sided story.

Later, I was telling my husband about it. As I spoke, his expression went from disgust to pure horror.

It turned out he thought I said, "It was mama, mating." He thought my brother had stumbled across my mom, mating with some farmer in a barn.

Even for a girl from Southern Oregon, that would be a hair-raising story. For two weeks, if I needed a laugh, all I had to do was think of his face before I told him what my brother had actually seen.

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4. From Cooking Light to Brazilian Jiujitsu - thanks to the lady who invented Step Aerobics

I got asked the other day how I got into BJJ.  I'm 20-30 years older than most of the folks I roll with, and most of them are men.

So I tried to trace it back.  And then I remembered!  When I was still working at Kaiser Permanente, Cooking LIght asked readers if any of them wanted Gin Miller, the lady who created Step Aerobics, to design a workout for them.  I'm sure a lot of people volunteered, but I got super lucky and got picked!

She designed a boxing workout and Cooking LIght even sent me a pair of bright pink boxing gloves and handwraps. I liked it. It was hard! You can do it yourself!

And then my gym offered a kickboxing class, and I took it.  The instructor was a black belt in kajukenbo, and he asked if we would be interesred in learning it. It's a mixed marital art.  The "ka" stand for karate, the "ju" for judo, the "ken" for kenpo, and the "bo" stands for both Chinese and American boxing.  I made it from a white sash to orange and was a few weeks away from testing for purple.

When that instructor left the gym, I looked around and got super lucky.  I found Southwest Portland Martial Arts. I started taking kung fu, which is a cousin to kajukenbo. Still I had to start at the bottom again.

Kung fu has been great for me - sparring, forms, and even some grappling.  I have moved from white belt to orange, and am now purple. I hope to trest for blue in the next year.

As part of kung fu, we had to do some grappling: arm bars, rear naked chokes, a mount escape. Then my school started offering Brazilian jiujitsu.  (aka grappling, aka wrestling + chokes + joint locks)

I have fallen in love. In love even more than I am with kung fu. I love it even though I am not a natural, and I don't have much in my favor. I'm 57, I'm not particualrly flexible, I'm a lady, a lot of my partners outweigh me, and I am not all that good at even knowing where my body is in space, let alone other people's bodies.

I don't care.  All I care about is that it's fun.  

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5. जब कोई बात बिगड़ जाये तो रहें बी पॉजिटिव

जब कोई बात बिगड़ जाये तो रहें बी पॉजिटिव यहां Click  करिए और सुनिए 1मिनट और 45 सैंकिंड की ऑडियो audio जब कोई बात बिगड़ जाये तो कैसे रहें बी पॉजिटिव Be Positive फिल्मी गाना “जब कोई बात बिगड जाए जब कोई …” बहुत आकर्षित करता है  वाकई में, हम किसी कठिनाई में हो, किसी मुश्किल […]

The post जब कोई बात बिगड़ जाये तो रहें बी पॉजिटिव appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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6. Measuring and Marking


My grandfather passed away last week. While he'd been in declining health, nothing was expected so soon and the news was a shock. Over the past few months, I'd been able to spend more time with my grandparents, giving me a wealth of memories and joy. I feel so very, very lucky to have had him in my life then and still.

As we've been taking care of things, I've been able to collect a few of his work tools. My grandfather was a civilian design engineer for the Navy, close to 30 years. I swear by his Eagle pencils and a small, homemade T-Square is quickly becoming my go-to for measuring.

And while I miss him profoundly, there's a joy and a connection that comes in giving his tools a new life.

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7. aprilhenry @ 2016-05-02T12:13:00

Less than two months ago, I got this note:

April, I can't begin to explain how much of a role model you are to me. I love all of your books; especially Girl, Stolen:) Recently, my dad passed away and my house burned down. And I look to your books and you inspire me to finish and accomplish a book I have been working on. I have been writing a kidnapping novel hence you are my favorite. I never thought i would see myself as a writer, and you have showed me that you can do anything and accomplish my dreams. One day I hope to have my book published and I would LOVE to send a copy to you and get your approval. I can't begin to explain again about how much you mean to me and how skilled you are.

Thank you so much
Your #1 fan, Carlie

When I wrote back, I found out that Carlie was only 13, and that just a month earlier her dad had set their house on fire and then killed himself. This girl had lost so much, yet she was sending love to me.

I sent her back a box of all my books, signed. But I wanted to do more. Maybe a Skype visit? But her librarian, Jessie McGaffin, had other plans, as you can read about here:

http://nevadaiowajournal.com/news/bestselling-author-visits-nms.html

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8. April


April in a nutshell:

*Tea to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday, complete with fancy hats, delectables and the host's delightful collection of royal memorabilia.

*More stitching/painting in between deadlines. I'm planning a shop update next month (more, later).

* A trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with friends. Despite the relative proximity, I never make it down to Boston (confession: I'm terrified of city driving). But thanks to the commuter rail out of Newburyport, the Green Line and traveling companions with a better navigational sense than my own, the trip was all smooth sailing.

* New episodes of Grantchester!

* And a visit from a brand new nephew. Which makes all in all for a pretty solid thirty days.

0 Comments on April as of 4/25/2016 6:12:00 PM
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9. Meet the cover model for The Body in the Woods


Wow! Meet Isabelle Varga, the model pictured on the cover of The Body in the Woods. She recently contacted me to let me know that she is not only on the cover, she is also a fan. So of course I asked her a bunch of questions.

Q. How did you get into modeling?
A. I started modeling right before I turned 15. I was competing for Miss New Jersey Teen USA and a photographer who was doing my headshot for the pageant called an agency and I was signed as a model.

Q. Are you still in school?
A. I go to high school and take off when I get called to work. It was hard at first to balance modeling and school but I learned to do all of my homework in the car or on set at lunch break. I also learned to get ahead of assignments on weekends if I knew I was booked for a job that following week. My time management skills are really good from working.

Q. Do you have to be accompanied by an adult?
A. My mom always came with me to the shoots. Now that I am almost 19 I drive myself to most shoots. I am fortunate to work with the same clients so I know the team very well.

Q. How much did you know about the book before you did the shoot?
A. When I was called to shoot for your book cover I didn't know much until I got to the studio. The photographer, Jonathan Barkat, was shooting several different covers at once. I was told the name of the book at the shoot. I was not allowed to take any pictures since it was not going to be released for several months.

Q. How much of what you see on the cover is real and how much was done in Photoshop?
A. It was an awesome shoot....the dirt and ferns were real and they were piled around me and on me as I lay on the floor. They did several different poses until they found the one they liked best. The eyeshadow was real and it was super cool to see the images on the computer. I did not see the final image until it came out.

Q. How long did it take?
A. The shoot took about 7 hours because several covers for other books were shot simultaneously. Your cover probably took about 2-3 hours. It was a lot of putting the dirt and ferns on me then taking them off to move positions then covering me again.

Q. Do you like modeling? What do you plan to do after you graduate high school?
A. I absolutely love modeling. It has been an amazing experience to work with some of the best photographers and makeup artists in the world. I absolutely loved shooting your cover. The first time I saw it in Barnes and Noble was incredibly fun. All of my friends texted me when it came out. I also loved shooting a Canon commercial which aired in Tokyo. I am very fortunate to have been exposed to different cultures and amazing adults who have helped shaped me into the person I am today. I have a very strong work ethic which started when I began modeling. I was just accepted into college and I will attend Bentley University in MA in Sept. I am going to study Marketing and Media and Culture in college with a minor in management. I hope to work for a major fashion company one day in their marketing department. I also plan to compete in more pageants and hope to be Miss USA one day.

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10. Do you need a round rock?

Do you need a round rock today? I found this one while I was running.

When I was a toddler, my folks were having hard times. My dad was working at an all-news radio station that was going down the tubes (and would soon fire all the reporters and become an all-rock-and-roll station). He had chased jobs across four states, and my parents were so broke they couldn't even afford a stroller.

My grandmother came to visit and later went for a walk. She bounded back into the house, calling, "Nora, guess what?" She was so excited that my mom thought she must have figured out some way to solve their problems. Instead, she handed my mom a rock, exclaiming in amazement over how round it was.

After she left, my mom laughed until she cried (or maybe it was cried until she laughed). She carried that rock in her purse for years, and there were times there was no money in the purse, just the rock. But she always said, if all else failed, she had a round rock.

In my family, it's an honor to go through hard times and earn your round rock. So if you're in need of a round rock today, think of this one as yours.

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11. हॉरर धारावाहिक, हमारी जिंदगी और मृत्यु का रहस्य

हॉरर धारावाहिक, हमारी जिंदगी और मृत्यु का रहस्य Tv पर चाहे खबरों हो, बहस हो या चैनल पर आने वाले धारावाहिक हो हर तरफ हॉरर ही हॉरर है .. देख कर डर ही लग जाता है… इसलिए सोचा कि थोडी देर मणि से मिल आती हूं… मणि अपने पडोस के घर से अभी लौटी थी. […]

The post हॉरर धारावाहिक, हमारी जिंदगी और मृत्यु का रहस्य appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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12. Chapter reveal: Trish's Team by Dawn Brotherton


Title:  TRISH’S TEAM
Genre:  Tween Fiction (Middle Grade Fiction)        
Author:  Dawn Brotherton
Publisher:  Blue Dragon Publishing
Purchase on Amazon

The debut release in Dawn Brotherton’s Lady Tigers series, Trish’s Team is a terrific new young adult tale featuring Trish Murphy.  A member of the Blue Birds, a recreational fastpitch softball team for 11 and 12 year old girls, Trish Murphy longs to be a member of the Lady Tigers, the elite travel team comprised of the best of the best players in the area.  When she is presented with the opportunity to try out for the team, Trish jumps at the chance. There’s just one small problem—it seems Trish’s parents don’t understand her love of the game.  Chances are they’ll be even less understanding and when they find out that team practice conflicts with Trish’s orchestra practice…


But being part of the Lady Tigers—and nurturing newfound friendships with the other team members—is Trish’s top priority.  When she tries to pull a fast one to get what she wants without considering the consequences, Trish puts everything in jeopardy. Trish’s decision could ultimately affect more than just the game: it could affect her friends.  Along the way, Trish discovers that being a part of the Lady Tigers is about much more than playing fastpitch softball:  it’s about being a part of a team.  But Trish may have to learn a painful lesson. After all, it really isn’t if you win or lose, but it’s how you play the game.  

Chapter 1

Trish Murphy stood in center field and brushed her brown bangs off her forehead with the back of her right hand. Frowning in concentration, she waited for the next pitch. In front of her, Ashley stepped onto the pitcher’s mound, hesitated only briefly, and then spun her right arm in a clockwise motion to deliver a good-looking pitch. Smack. The ball sailed toward center field. Racing forward, Trish got under it, just like the coach had shown her. Plop. It landed snugly in her glove for an easy out.
“Nice catch, Trish!” Coach Tim called from the dugout. She smiled and threw the ball to the infield. It was a beautiful throw, yet it bounced out of the second baseman’s glove and rolled to the pitcher.
Rolling her eyes in frustration, Trish hurried back to her spot in the outfield.
Two outs, one to go.
Trish watched as, on the mound, Ashley took the signal from the catcher. Nodding, Ashley positioned the ball inside her glove, stood tall on her wind up, and fired the ball to the exact low-inside location the catcher had indicated.
“Strike one,” the umpire called.
Shifting her stance to the right slightly so she could look around the pitcher’s back, Trish waited to see where the next pitch would cross the plate. She was betting it would be low and outside this time.
“Strike two!” she heard across the plush grass that lay before her.
Yep, low and outside, she thought, grinning. Ashley was a pretty good pitcher, and with Alisha catching for her, they were a great team.
Trish knew the next pitch would be a change-up, high and inside. She smiled as the batter was caught off guard, swinging before the ball had even reached the plate. “Strike three! Batter’s out!” the ump called.
“Yes!” the team cheered as they raced for the dugout.
Coach Tim met them as they ran off the field, holding his hand out for high-fives. “Come on, girls, gather around. Nice catch out there, Trish. Beautiful strike-outs, Ashley. We’re behind by one run. Let’s swing some sticks.”
The Blue Birds was a recreational fast-pitch softball team for 11- and 12-year-old girls that only played 10 games a summer. The coaches were volunteers and mostly dads of the girls on the team. Trish felt lucky that she was on Coach Tim’s team. Some of the dads didn’t even know how to play softball, let alone teach the girls to play. Coach Tim was different. He had played baseball in college, so at least he knew the game.
Trish glanced around the softball complex hoping her mom might be there. She didn’t really expect to see her, but she was disappointed anyway.
She heard a loud cheer come from the field behind where the Blue Birds were playing. She saw the orange and black uniforms of the Lady Tigers. Trish sighed. She would love to play for the Tigers. The coaches only picked the best-of-the-best players for the travel softball team. They played ball almost every weekend in long tournaments.
“Head in the game, Trish,” Coach Tim said, refocusing her attention on her own team.
“Come on, Becky, you can do it!” Trish yelled to the leadoff batter.
Trish turned to read the lineup hanging on the fence. It was the top of the line-up. Trish grabbed her helmet and bat. She was batting fourth.
Hearing the crack of the bat, she looked up in time to see Becky hit a short pop-up to the third baseman. The player tried to catch it, but the ball dropped in front of her, and Becky beat out the throw to first.
“Batter up!” The umpire seemed in a hurry to keep the game moving. Clara quickly stepped inside the chalk-outlined rectangle of the batter’s box. The pitch came quickly on the inside corner. “Strike one.”
Clara stepped out and took a few practice swings. She settled into the box again. It turned into a long wait as the pitcher threw four balls in a row. Clara jogged to first; Becky went to second.
Trish watched in anticipation as Samantha moved toward home plate for her turn at bat. Trish put on a helmet and stepped out of the dugout to take a few practice swings, getting her timing down for the pitches.
Samantha stepped into the box. She was tall so the outfielders backed up, anticipating that she would hit the ball far. Crack. The ball flew over the third baseman’s head, landing in the grass. The left fielder raced in and scooped up the ball, preventing the runners from scoring.
Bases loaded. No outs. Trish stepped into the box. She knew she didn’t look very impressive. At only four-foot-six, she hadn’t reached her full height by a long shot. Her legs were long, slender, and solid muscle. She was used to people underestimating her, but she liked it that way. It usually worked to her advantage.
Trish settled in as the pitcher began her wind up. The pitch came in. Way inside. Trish leaped out of the way. The next pitch was outside, and the catcher missed it. Becky raced past Trish to cross the plate as the fans cheered.
“Just a base hit, Trish,” her coach called.
“You can do it, Trish!” The fans were all cheering her on. She kept her concentration on the ball leaving the pitcher’s hand.
The pitch was coming in perfect, right down the middle, ideal height. It was slow, so Trish looked at it again. It had a weird spin. She didn’t swing. Right before the plate, it dropped. “Ball three.” Trish was thankful for the many hours of extra batting practice Coach Tim had spent with her. He had shown her how to truly watch the ball.
The next pitch was almost the same, but it didn’t appear to be spinning. Smack. It went over the second baseman, missing the right fielder’s glove and rolled all the way to the fence for a triple. Clara and Samantha scored as Trish rounded the bases.
The fans were cheering. The score now read, “Blue Birds: 9; Redhawks: 7.”
“Nice hit, Trish,” Coach Tim said, smiling broadly.
Trish’s grin lit up her face. She clapped her hands and cheered on the next batter from third base.
Alisha hit a nice single to left center field that allowed Trish to score. The girls lined up to high-five her as she came into the dugout.
Ashley hit a fly ball to right field that cost them an out, but moved Alisha to third. Amber grounded out on a hit to second base, leaving Alisha in place. Ton-Lou flew out to left field to end the inning. The girls were in high spirits because they were winning, and the other team only had one more chance to bat.
“Good inning, ladies; let’s hit the field. Hold them for three more outs,” the coach said.
The first Redhawk hit the ball to Lexi on second base who easily picked it up and threw her out at first. Trish was a little nervous when the other team’s number four batter stepped to the plate. She was tall for a 12-year-old and had already hit it to the fence once this game. She took a few steps back and angled toward left field.
Ashley delivered the pitch low and inside. The batter got under the ball, and it went high into foul territory on the left field side. Much to Trish’s surprise, Ashley put the next pitch in the same place. This time the batter swung and missed.
Trish smiled. She knew the coaches called the pitches from the dugout. She would have to ask Coach Tim why he called two in a row the same way. That wasn’t very common. She liked to learn as much as she could about the strategy of softball, not just the technique.
The third and final pitch stayed low but to the outside corner. The batter swung but didn’t even come close. Two outs.
The number five batter had hit the ball to center field twice already in previous innings so Trish was ready. The batter let the first pitch go by but got ahold of the second. It was a long fly ball to deep center field.
Trish immediately turned her body and began to run toward the fence. She ran full out, praying her left fielder would be there to back her up if she missed it. At the last possible second, Trish dove at where she predicted the ball would be, capturing it in her glove as she hit the ground. That ended the game; final score was 10-7, Blue Birds.
The girls cheered enthusiastically. Trish couldn’t stop smiling as the coach and other girls clapped her on the back as they lined up to shake hands with the Redhawks. Even some of the opposing team members congratulated her on such a great catch. It felt wonderful!
She looked around at the crowd waiting outside the fence, but there was no sign of her parents. Trish wished that they had been there to witness her final catch.

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13. Diary


February so far, in a pictorial nutshell.

My first diary was a Peter Rabbit journal with a lock and key that I kept in first grade. I think I only managed to fill up about 15 pages of the 365 available. Flipping through it a few months ago I was appalled at my, shall we say, "creative spelling." But entries about the Tooth Fairy and staying the night at my grandparents still hold up.

As a teenager, I became a more regimented diarist, detailing each day's events in cramped, school-girl script. When I went away to college, I shifted from keeping a diary to writing daily emails home, a way to combat homesickness. And then there was the first awkward attempt at blogging my senior year, a Microsoft Frontpage document (cringe) that I updated daily and is mercifully no longer available on the internet. I remember vaguely writing about miniature marshmallows in cocoa and CD purchases that I will not now publicly admit.

It seems on a weekly basis that articles about THE DEATH OF BLOGGING pop up -- insert disaster sound effects. And while wonderful alternate forms of communication do rise to the surface, there's something about blogging that still seems comforting.  I guess in a way, it doesn't feel so very different from that Peter Rabbit diary at the end of the day. Except I'm not reviewing episodes of "Jem and the Holograms." Or should I?

Just kidding. Sort of. Anyhow, February has included book sketches, a trip to Flight Coffee, watching episodes of Mr. and Mrs. Murder, sewing a baby quilt for a brand new nephew and reading The Thing With Feathers. And snow.

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14. Is it true you have to write what you know?

Question from a reader
I am an aspiring author (I checked out your FAQ page so don't worry about me asking you to read something of mine). I loved Girl, Stolen! I wanted to ask how you wrote about Cheyenne being blind? I was wondering if you knew someone who was blind, if you did extensive research, or if you just trusted your gut and thought about how you would feel? I was reading something from another author who said you should only write about things you've experienced, but as a pretty sheltered 16 year old there isn't a lot I've experienced. I was wondering if you followed the same rule.

My answer
You don’t have to write only what you know. I’ve heard “write what you want to know” and I think that’s more true.

Years ago, before I was published, I started writing a book from the POV of two middle-aged male Southerners who are identical twins, one of whom is paralyzed. (Not sure I had even been to the South - and I was younger, female, and not paralyzed. Oh, and not a twin.) That wasn’t the best idea. I think I thought it was more “writerly” to write a character I totally had to make up.

I am not blind and at the time I started writing Girl, Stolen, I did not know anyone who was. But I had just seen a news story that was basically the first few minutes of Girl, Stolen (the real girl was let go after 10 minutes) and I knew it would make a great book.

I think if you are going to write about someone who is not like you (especially someone who is in the minority), you should try really hard to get it right. So while I could walk around my house with eyes closed and think about what it would be like to be blind, I knew that wasn’t enough. So:
- I read books by people who had gone blind. (And I was lucky, because there are a LOT! Understandably, it’s a dramatic thing)
- I interviewed blind people and asked them to read the book when it was done.
- I got a white cane and learned basic caning technique.
- I went to the guide dog school for the blind and spent a day there.

And I also trusted my gut and thought about how I would feel.

I think it’s good to experience something yourself if you can. I have fired a gun, I have been handcuffed, and I have learned how to pick my way out of handcuffs with a bobby pin. When a copyeditor questioned whether the killer could really put a body under the kitchen sink, I pulled out everything and climbed in and took a selfie.

So you can combine trusting your gut, thinking about it logically, doing research, interviewing people, and having real life experiences. If you are writing fantasy, it is likely you are never going to experience what it is like to be a were-dragon or cast spells or whatever. So that’s going to be more thinking about it and trusting your gut.

I was a pretty sheltered 16 year old myself. Nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to become a serial killer to write about them (or do you…?). (Nope, pretty sure you don’t.)

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15. Is today ordinary, even boring? Appreciate it

Our only child got sideswiped by a truck on the freeway Saturday night. If you believe in string theory and alternate universes, there are so many where something much worse happened.

Reminds me to appreciate every day where all my family and friends are fine. 

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16. The siege at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge

I'm a native Oregonian.  In the early 1980s, my dad, a county commissioner in Southern Oregon, received death threats from a group called Posse Comitatus. At one point, the police advised my dad to leave town and go into hiding. And my father, who was the most mild mannered man I've ever met, actually thought about whether he should get a gun.

A lot of their philosophy lives on in the armed extremists - pretty much of all of them from out of state - who have taken over Oregon's Malheur Wildlife Refuge. And you can trace the Posse Comitatus back to the Silver Shirts, a group modeled after Hitler's Brown Shirts.

Plus I love the
Malheur Wildlife Refuge.  It's a beautiful spot with a cool little museum.

Ammon Bundy and his crew of armed occupiers who have taken it over the  scare me. A lot.

Learn about historical linkages to earlier groups, like Posse Comitatus.

Learn about how one of the main occupiers believes "slavery never really happened."


Learn about how one of original occupiers, and a close confidant of Bundy, made up his military service - and another one has claimed to have been in the Marines.

Learn about an occupier who is a convicted murderer.

Learn about the occupier and spokesman who has threatened to shoot Hilary Clinton in the vagina.

Learn about the main occupier who makes a living off his foster kids - who he admits were his main source of income.


Now they have their own "jury" that they created to "try" public officials, and it's quite possible they will put liens on public officials' personal property.  It's what the Posse Comitatus did in Southern Oregon.

I am so sick of these folks.  And when I posted something on my Facebook page, I was accused of being a paid goverment shill.

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17. Happy 2016 Patient Readers… and a look back at 2015

Wow I did not get a lot of blogging done in 2015. 

Instead I got a lot done everywhere else.

Like here:
The cover illustration of KOOKY CRUMBS in progress



















and here:
With a posse of illustrators at the Midsouth
SCBWI Picture Book Dummy Retreat at Pickwick Landing State Park




















and here:
Meeting Dan Santat and Michelle Knudson
at the National SCBWI conference in LA


















and especially here
My launch for THE LITTLE KIDS' TABLE !! On September 11th, the day
after my 43rd birthday. This is probably my favorite picture from all of 2015.
All the ladies in this picture are accomplished artists as well as amazing friends.


Dulce Desserts provided this amazing cake!


Reading my book at Parnassus during the launch.
I was so happy I didn't have to use a microphone.

And this is the my other favorite picture from 2015.
After the party was over the very last picture
was taken with me, Jim Dear, Fry and Sprout




























































































There were also some pretty awesome vacations in the mix:
Then two weeks after that we boarded the Disney Wonder
for some much needed relaxation from Vancouver to San Diego.






















as well as some very awesome book parties for many of my talented friends:
Launching POPPY'S BEST PAPER by Susan Eaddy
Launching DUNCAN THE STORY DRAGON by Amanda Driscoll. Also
pictured is Jessica Young who launched SPY GUY and FINLEY FLOWERS







































So while a tiny little part of me missed writing in my blog the truth is the time has come for me to realize that the time I spend blogging is time I could be spending doing a lot of other things. Which leads me to my personal goal for 2016: CRAFT

Illustrating and writing require a constant, lifelong commitment to get better. Over the course of my blog I've posted my weekly sketches. I've posted about critiques and workshops and conferences. These are all important to do and to attend but now I plan to spend the better part of 2016 focusing all my creative energy on my craft. Writing and rewriting, drawing, and redrawing. The time that I could be spending putting together a blog post is now going to be spent doing the work that improves my craft. And when I'm not doing THAT I'll be continuing to keep my resolutions from 2015. Or hanging out with Jim Dear, The Fry, and Sprout who are growing up at a much more rapid rate than they have a right to.

Not that I won't ever post as Fabulous Illustrator again but Facebook and Twitter give me the opportunity to natter about ordinary life. I do have some other posts planned but for 2016 I'll save my blog for really special occasions…. like this:
KOOKY CRUMBS arrived on my doorstep on January 11th, 2016!





































Happy 2016 patient readers


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18. I changed my mind.

I think my word for 2015 will be

Precious

Because it all is.  My time, my energy and attention, my health, my family, my friends.

I want to act like it.  To remember that everying is fleeting.  

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19. Chicken by Chicken: Panic Attacks a Life

Hi folks, I'm writing my series called Chicken by Chicken. I spend this month writing the real, especially my challenges. This is a difficult post to write. My life hasn't been normal. It has been defined by panic.  Panic attacks. I don't remember my first attack, maybe I was 5 or 6. I estimate I have had more than a thousand panic attacks in my life. It is strange, even writing about panic attacks makes a nervous feeling in my chest, but I'm going to press on.


For years I didn't know what was going on. It was clear to me early on that a few specific thing send me into panic. I 'd lose my glasses, or go to the dentist, or be picked on at school. I also had panic attacks about lost keys, missed school assignments, and bank errors. Sometimes I have had random attacks about speaking in public and entering new situations. Some of my panic triggers make sense to me. Some do not. 

In my worst seasons, I had panic attacks that happened once or twice a day for months.  I have multiple panic attacks in a day. The first mega attack day was in the third grade. I had 10 panic attacks in a row. I lost my glasses and I started a new school. I still remember the waves of panic crashing over me.  I sat at my desk and struggled with attack after attack for the whole school day. I was moved into a special ed classroom. These mega attacks have hit me through the years.  It's always if I'm hit with many triggers.

I've seen things turn into panic triggers. Here is my worst: I sought help in my early twenties, but unfortunately, my mental health provider did something human and stupid by having an affair with a guy 25 years younger than her.  The guy was being torn apart by the relationship. The guy was also a very close friend of mine.  My mental health provider stopped my sessions, informing me that she was having the affair with my friend.  I was dropped and left without care. Yeah, and then speaking to a mental health provider became one of my triggers. Dang. 

Here is reality of my panic attacks. They hit like a tornado. The shortness of breath. Hyperventilation. My heart races. Trembles shake my body. Cold sweats and goosebumps follow.  I often throw up. Uncontrollable sobbing. Dizziness. Wailing. It doesn't make sense. It's terrifying to those around me. It's terrifying to me. 

To know me is to know my panic. Most of my attacks last about 20 to 30 minutes. It's taken years to build strategies to survive and to find drugs that actually help.  I sometimes think it is beyond ridiculous to think I'm going to be a writer. What if a panic attack blindsides me?  People who love me understand. Everyone else is not so forgiving. 
    
I wish I could say I got the health care I needed for this right off and it has been all good. That is not my story. It took time to get help because mental health workers cause me to panic. This is the first time in life I've ever had the moxie to even speak of this. I do have healthcare now. I do have good medication. I can still have a panic attack now and then, but it is down to maybe two a year and never multiple attacks. 

I have solid ways to deal with panic. When it comes, I recognize I'm having attack. I speak my mantra: "This is a panic attack. It is a problem that is not the problem. It cannot hurt me. It cannot stop me. It just chemicals poured into my body. My fight of flight system is messed up. The chemicals will dissipate and then I can deal with the real problem."  I breathe slowly, repeating the mantra, until the panic ends. 

I am a person with a rare gift for words, but I'm also this broken person, who has been broken for most of my life by panic.  I hope that my struggle helps you to be brave and face whatever you are facing. I hope that you say what you need to.   

I will be back next week with more of Chicken by Chicken.  

Here is a doodle. Girl in the Moon. 


Here is a quote for your pocket. 

Listen to God with a broken heart. He is not only the doctor who mends it, but also the father who wipes away the tears. Crissi Jami

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20. For a Good Deal, Call Kevin

Kevin has become a hoarder.

Okay. No he hasn’t, but it sure feels like he has and if you look closely, it sure FEELS like he has.

Kevin and Roy haunt yard sales every weekend. Every. Weekend. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, without fail. And to be perfectly honest, it’s sort of amazing how much junk stuff they have found that has actually been pretty useful.

For example:

Washer/Dryer $75 for the washing machine – they paid Kevin/Roy to take the dryer and they fixed the dryer for $12.
Pressure Washer: $30 – retail $275
Lights on stands: $10 for both – retail $35 for both
Hedger: $5 – retail $75
Dresser: $20 – retail $150
Six/Seven pairs of sneakers for Roy: $4 – retail: $60 (one was a pair of Nike Jordans)
Leather Cowboy boots: $5 – retail $150
Coats/Jackets for Roy, Kevin and the boys: $3-5 – retail: $40 average
Two ceiling fans w/ lights for Roy: $3 – retail: $75
Two ceilings fans for our house: one for $3, one for $.50: retail $75 each
56 inch TV (works perfectly) for $15 – retail: $200
Antique cabinet $20 – retail $100
Nightstand $5 – retail: $35
Two gamer chairs $2 / $5: retail $80
Two brand-new pairs of jeans $10: retail $35
Air mattresses for the pool $1: retail $5
Painting over our sofa $8: retail $30
IBM Thinkpad $1 (and it works like brand new!): retail $150
Countless DVD’s and XBox games: $.50 a piece.
StarWars DVD set $3: retail $80 (!)
TV FREE: retail $150
25 lb weights $12 total: retail $20 each
20 lb weights $10 total: retail $17 each
Free toolbox (it’s a red toolbox on wheels): retail $30
Shelves $5 each: retail $30
Powerstrips $1: retail $5
Laser printer $5: retail $150 (yes – it works great)

That’s what really surprises me about all of the stuff he’s gotten at these sales – they were all in new, or like new, condition. Whenever I think of garage sales, I think JUNK. And not just JUNK – JUNKJUNK. Like broken, missing parts, dings, scrapes, nicks JUNK. But honestly, God was watching out for Kevin and Roy. And here’s why I think that… Remember, Roy moved into the house with virtually nothing. NOTHING. And not a lot of money. He gets a monthly paycheck from the government every month and that’s it. And because our government welfare system is so messed us, he HAS to spend all of his money every month – he is not allowed to save any of it. And if he gets a job, he can’t work over a certain number of hours or he will lose his benefits.

Tell me that’s not asinine.

But I digress.

So, he has enough money to pay rent and buy food. He doesn’t have a lot left over for any extras. And remember, he’s not allowed to save his money so you can see our challenge – he’s on his own, doesn’t have a lot of things he needs and doesn’t have the money, or the permission, to save for said need.

Kevin and Roy started garage sale hopping. And it would ASTOUND me becasue not only were they able to find everything on their list and the things that Roy needed, but that the items they found were not only dirt cheap, they were in good shape. I think that’s a pretty big testament to Kevin and Roy’s faith. What are the odds that they found exactly what they needed, and it was in great shape, for dirt cheap?

Exactly.

No. I have not gone with them when they hunt for their goodies. Garage sales have left a bitter, BITTER taste in my mouth. I have nothing against garage sales, per se, but I grew up on garage sale stuff and hand-me-downs. Now mom, don’t take offense, you did what you had to do to feed and clothe three children. And might I add, you did a DAMN good job of it. Though I knew the stuff I had was used, second hand, I never wanted for anything, not really.

But when I left my family home to make a life for myself, I was DETERMINED I was not going to live on other people’s hand-me-downs. I wanted my own stuff, call it a pride thing, I guess.

So it seems almost like I’ve come full circle now that Kevin has been bringing home things from garage sales. And though I’m not entirely thrilled that he’s doing this, I have to admit, I’m impressed. It takes a lot of patience to go to ten garage sales every weekend just to keep an eye out for specific things. And he must be doing something right because he’s bringing home some pretty good stuff.

For example, the ceiling fan in our bedroom and the spare bedroom (Brandon’s old room) are from garage sales. He bought the one in our bedroom for $3 bucks. THREE BUCKS. And it’s brand-spanking new. And I like it. And it looks nice. And Kevin says every time he looks at it, he gets a thrill because he remembers stumbling across it at the sale and immediately knew it was a good deal and where he wanted to put it. If we had bought that ceiling fan from someplace like Lowe’s, it would easily be $70 bucks.

But I am concerned. He is wracking up quite a few things and though he finds places for these things, and a lot of times we need these things, we’re getting to the point that he’s having to be creative on where he’s placing these things. He’s talking about opening up an eBay store and running it with Roy which I’m okay with, but the problem with Kevin is, he gets attached to things. I mean REALLY attached to things. He has trouble letting anything go.

Hence my concern.

Kevin says he feels like a rich man because of all of the deals he’s found these past months. And now, every time we go shopping, I hear, “there’s no way I’m paying that much for that item when I can find it for a quarter at a garage sale.”

(Sound familiar, mom?? HA!)

I’ve married the male version of my mother. HAHA!


Filed under: Life

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21. Novemberings

Life lately has included illustrating book covers, a Tweed Ride, a whole lot of The Great British Baking Show (see above) and rose tea. So that's that.
   
Also, goodbye foliage. You outdid yourself, Mother Nature. Fist bump.

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22. Deep in December


Everything since mid-November has been a bit of a blur, but I think that's true for most of the general public at present. I haven't even managed to haul out the Christmas ornaments, but am hoping to rectify that situation this weekend. Aside from that, what's what?

* I'm finishing up a free holiday gift tag downloadable. I'll have that up here next week.

* I'm completely obsessed with the Limetown podcast and literally squealed with delight when I realized Serial launched its second season yesterday.

* I have a Christmas card downloadable in the shop. Speaking of the shop, I'll have calendar tea towels up tomorrow, Saturday. And the Cyrillic alphabet illustration above is a print I finished up ages ago, but forgot to show here. Head desk.

And that seems to be it, so back to the drafting table. If this was the year 2100 I'd offer you virtual egg nog and sugar cookies, but technology hasn't caught up with my internet dreams yet. Someday.




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23. The most amazing fall ever

Our first real vacation in 8 years
In November, we went to New Zealand, Fiji (for 24 hours) and Kauai. (I've been travelling so much we were able to do airfare with miles!) New Zealand is truly as beautiful as they say. For me, the two most memorable experiences were spending the night on a boat in Milford Sound (and seeing penguins, seals and even a humpback whale), and taking a helicopter to the top of a glacier.





School visits in Virginia
I've been doing a ton of school visits.  This school year I will spend about six weeks doing visits talking to thousands of kids. So far,  I have been in Washington state, Washington DC, Oregon, Iowa, and Virginia.  The new year will bring more Oregon visits, as well as two trips to Texas, and visits to Illinois, Nebraska and Missouri.  There's even going to be a tour for my new book, The Girl I Used to Be, in May.





On Friday, I got home from spening two weeks in the Virignia area. I gave versions of the same talk 26 times, plus taught eight writers' workshops. The last time I spoke, I think I actually had a mini panic attack.  The mike was heavy and I started worrying that I was repeating myself, then that I would faint, which made me worry even more about fainting, which made me feel fainter....

Near-faint aside, I had an amazing time. I felt like a rock star (which isn't necessarily a good thing). I ate lunch with students at nearly ever school, and one librarian told me that a girl was worried that her lunch wouldn't be "sophisticated enough." Two different times girls broke into tears when they met me, which made me feel honored and also slightly discombobulated. I got asked to sign books, pieces of paper, and phone cases.

I thought of all the years I wrote when only my mom read my books. All the times I worried my career was over. I'm resolved to enjoy this while it lasts.


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24. A single word can guide a year

Instead of coming up with a dozen resolutions for 2015, I decided to have just a single word.

Risk.

Risk turned out to be a great word. It helped nudge me to do some things I wouldn't have normally done, including:
- Attending Urban Escape and Evasion - a slightly crazy three-day class in LA where I learned how to get out of duct tape, rope,and zip ties, how to pick locks, and how to pick and shim handcuffs.  All the books I wrote this year have featured handcuffs. Coincidence?  I think not.

- Taking BJJ classes at strange schools where I was ususally the only woman on the floor and older than everyone else by twenty plys years.

- Telling an instructor I did not know well that I found one of his "funny" voices offensive.  It swooped up and down and included a lisp and a limp wrist.  The conversation went differently than I expected, but I was so scared to speak up - and so glad i did.


- Trying to summit Mt. St. Helens (an active volcano) when my husband's friend couldn't go.  That was the most challenging thing I've ever done. Physically it was exhausting, and mentally I realized I am so AFRAID of heights. We did not summit (although my husband could have).  By the time we finally got off the boulder field (which took hours clambering over extremely steep, sometimes shifting rocks without even a trail), I was on the verge of losing it. But hey, I tried!

- Saying yes to events I was nervous to do - and having the best time.

So what is my word for 2016?

I think it will be:

Flexible

That works for my hips.  That works for my relationships. That works for my approach to my work and my schedule.  (I like schedules a little too much).

What are your resolutions for 2016?

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25. For Auld Lang Syne my Dear


Thanks for the memories, 2015! I'm plunking down with a cup of coffee and my laptop for a minute, to stop and meander through the past twelve months. Every January I have a battle plan in my head, a roadmap of the new year ahead. And invariably by December, I've taken highways and byways unintended, but eventually appreciated. I think Dirk Gently (a.k.a, Douglas Adams) put it best when he said, "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."

I started 2015 flying into Washington, D.C, on New Year's Day. San Antonio this past Spring was splendid and ditto for a night spent on an island off the coast of New Hampshire this past August. And a trip to Los Angeles in September was swell.

I began work on Finding Wild amidst the most punishing winter I can remember and sent in final artwork just as the leaves started to unfurl. My sister and I launched a graphic novel in weekly installments -- eight months in and I feel like we're really getting to the good parts. And I experimented, making lots and lots of artwork, trying to get closer to the things I want and need to make.

So how about 2015 New Year's resolutions? I didn't sew as much as I wanted to, but I did make an Archer shirt that I wear continuously. I took an etching class at Chase's Garage and am loving Skillshare. And I did read 25 books, you can see them over here.

I'm still mulling over 2016, how to map out the next twelve months. But for now, I'm going to have a glass of champagne, a slice of this cake and binge on the Twilight Zone marathon. Happy New Year and here's wishing you all the best in the months ahead!

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