Monday, March 17, 2014

A critique group for writers is something special - a group of individuals trusting each other with their creative babies, pushing, giving feedback, cheering, holding hands. Here we are celebrating the release of Robin Herrera's first novel - Hope is a Ferris Wheel. Yeah!!!!!!

I have been with this group for years now - have sort of lost count.  Half the group are old timers and have been together even longer.  Then we have some newbies who have only been with us for a few years.  But long enough to have two children!  

It has been wonderful to watch each other grow as writers and achieve success. The picture above was at a book reading for the release of Robin's novel. Nora Erickson has a picture book coming out soon.  Roseanne Parry's third novel, Written in Stone, is up for an Oregon Literary Arts Award.  Cheryl Coupe, Nora Erikson and Robin Herrera are graduates of the Vermont College MFA program for writing for children and young adults - (the rest of us vicariously have gone to school). Rosanne Parry, Michael Gettle-Gilmartin, Amy Baskin (not in the picture), Robin Herrera and Nora Erikson have agents. Michael is a prolific blogger.  Everyone has great work.  I would have given up writing years ago, if not for this group.  

We meet every two weeks at Lyra's retirement home - sending work to be critiqued before hand via e-mail.  We check in briefly, then take turns giving feedback about the writing.  Everyone is respectful, but tough.  "This doesn't make sense, I need more setting here, point of view isn't consistent, there is no plot!"  There is also lots of support - "Keep going. this is great, I love where this is going."  I need both scalpels and encouragement. Good writing is not a solitary endeavor.  Thanks!

Monday, June 17, 2013

On the Norse Road

Actually, technically, I have been in the air rather than on a road.  Even with paying lots of attention to flight times and layovers, it is a long haul to Greenland.  Yes, Greenland.  I have taken the leap and am visiting the areas where the Norse in my novel lived.  Since getting in touch with my Norwegian relatives through the Alt for Norge experience, I felt I had to go visit them, and, if I was that close to Greenland......  Really, it was a matter of believing in my writing, believing that this novel has merit and deserves the extra attention (and $$) to make it better. 
So, here I am.  In Reykjavik, Iceland right now - heading to Greenland tomorrow.  My 18 year old son, Silas has come with me.  Probably the last big trip with a parent before he heads off on his own.  Its nice to have company and I love traveling with him.  Jim has stayed behind with job, house and dog (Thanks!!!!) - he is saving his travel time for a place that has sun. 
And today, I do not blame him.  We have seen one little glimpse of sun through some clouds and then it got socked in.  Cold wind and spitting rain.  Feels a bit like November in Portland.
We arrived early and the guest house was closed, so we wandered looking for COFFEE.  The trip had been 13 hours - including layovers and, though we sort of slept, I don't think there was much REM sleep involved and we were both very tired - not up to wandering with backpacks. 
But everything was closed - even at 9 am.  Seems today is the Icelandic National Holiday - sort of 4th of July and there were lots of closed signs in windows.  We just wanted coffee.,,,  Everyone we asked said that it would be a big day.. later.  We checked out the huge modern cathedral at the top of the town and they said they were making coffee for themselves and we could come back in twenty minutes!  But we couldn't wait and wandered.  Reykjavik - at least the old town - is small with cement homes packed tightly and winding alleylike roads that crisscoss at diagonals with unpronounceable names like Ingolfsstreati and Sjafnargata.  We headed down towards the water.
 
Finally we found a place that looked like it had just opened.  A strange mixture of bookstore, coffee shop/cafe.  I think there was a religious slant as many of the books were about God, though there were about 10 Icelandic-English Dictionaries.  I also saw copies of Barnebiblia - which I think means Children's Bible.   But they had coffee.  Not great coffee, but coffee, and breakfast - mainly salmon and egg concoctions that were more expensive than I was hoping for - even though I had been warned.  We had already bought some beer at the airport -duty/tax free store in anticipation of high prices.  Coffee was about $3 and breakfast about $10.  I was sort of whining when Silas pointed out that the price included tax and there is No Tipping in Iceland.  I am still going to have to be a price hawk. 
After we ate, I left Silas with the bags, reading the news on my mini travel computer -  there seems to be free Wi-Fi everywhere.  Since our phones do not work here (Verizon) I headed back to the guest house, hoping someone would be up.  After a bit of getting lost and checking the map, I found it again and was welcomed by the manager.  Yes, we could come in early - drop our bags, the room is almost ready.  I smiled and thought of a bed.
But, coming back with Silas, we found the kitchen full of men and bags - a group of Swedes heading up north to kayak.  They had distracted our hostess with questions of where to get food and last minute supplies, the room was not yet ready.  So Silas and I dropped our bags and headed out to wander again.  Without bags it was easier to enjoy the town and, finally, there were people on the streets and stores were opening.  Lots of tourists!  Lots of stores and restaurants for tourists.  I really had not realized how much of a tourist town Reykjavik is.  For some reason a National Capital has different connotations in my mind.  Everywhere there were brochures and ads for the wonderful tours to the great places around Iceland. Whalewatching, kayaking, salmon fishing, see the volcano and waterfall.  All for $100s. I am tempted by a rental agency that rents minivans, though we are not going to be in town long enough.  I know that most of the population lives here or in the surrounding suburbs.  I wonder how many of them get out into the scenic wild Iceland? 
Still looked like mainly tourists in the streets.  We headed back to our room.  But not before we found a second hand store - actually looked like more of a Goodwill bins/ garage sale with women pulling things out of bags.  There we found a stack of blankets old Icelandic woolen blankets that were in great shape - after seeing the new ones in stores for $100s  we couldn't resist getting some for $12 each.  We were cold.
The room is basic - simple Scandinavian twin beds - shared bath down the hall.  We collapse and sleep for hours.  Waking, we have no idea what time it is.  The day is still overcast, but it could be anytime.  Our bodies have lost their clocks.  It is 5pm!  We go out, wondering what sort of celebration there will be for the National holiday.  There are a few more people in the street but not many - did we miss it?  We walk down to the waterfront, where are the people?  There is a path along the water and there are a few folks walking and biking, but not many.  Then we hear music and head towards a makeshift stage.  The music is loud and really awful.  Discordant rock with a small crowd - more young people than we have seen.  Silas comments that teenagers are the same around the world - awkward and rebellious and cliquish. I realize I have not paid enough attention to teens while traveling. We head away and look for a restaurant.  One of the strange details that I read was that the largest immigrant populations to Iceland are Polish and Thai.  So, there are Thai restaurants- our comfort food.  It is wonderful. 
We are still tired.  A bed, a beer and a book seem great right now.  I'm not feeling like taking full advantage of Reykjavik.  But the place is not what I call hopping.  Maybe its the weather - the wind is cutting harder and its just not good birthday weather. Its almost midnight as I am writing this and the light is a cool blue - it could be a stormy afternoon in Portland.  I'm sure there are some warm bars full of Icelanders, but I'm going to get some more sleep.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Graphic Novel -Attack of the Black Mamba

 Graphic Novels!  As a librarian, I've known for years how excited children get about books in this format . Though it seemed to be mainly boys and students whose English is a second language, girls were interested also. Fiction and informational, the graphic books that are coming out are getting better and more sophisticated and it's hard to keep them stocked.

But....  I'm afraid the graphics get more attention than the words. The type is often so small it's illegible, and the reading level of the words is often too high for the kids "reading" the books.  I wanted to see graphic early readers - graphic novels aimed at beginning and emerging readers, that paid attention to eye tracking, grammar, and reading levels as well as graphics and story.

So, I had this idea..... 

A fun, slightly gruesome story that was conceived as a graphic novel written by a kid -instead of a report - with some non-fiction information thrown in.  Then, since I did take art classes in college (though mainly sculpture and painting), I thought I would try my hand at drawing - at least a dummy - just to see what it might look like. You never really know how difficult something is until you try it.  Here is what I created for a 32-page picture book.  It is rough and I'm not good at posting drawings, but I thought I'd send it out into cyberspace.

 I'm still not sure if it works. I wish I knew more about the form. I showed it to one editor and she said, "what is it?"  I should have known better, as she edits sweet picturebooks, but still....  I would love to collaborate with an artist who knows comics and see what they do with my story. 









































Monday, November 5, 2012

Not Winning Alt for Norge

     My lips have been sealed for almost six months, which is rather remarkable for me.  I could not let anyone know who had won Alt for Norge until the show was actually shown on Norwegian TV and, after 10 episodes, the winner was revealed.  Whew!  I'm not known for keeping secrets.
     So, now I can spread the beans.  I did not win.... I only made it half way through, which was actually fine, as I am much too much of a curmudgeon to have survived the whole adventure. Tromping around Norway with a group of much younger Norwegian-Americans, having to eat salmon every day, seeing beautiful scenery and waiting, waiting, waiting for lights and cameras and to know what we are doing next.
      If you really want to know details, I made another blog just for the show and my Norwegian fans.  Yes, I have fans and even made a Facebook page and I'm not embarrassed about it.  Norwegians are really nice people and this show is terribly popular.  When I'm feeling down or trying to procrastinate, checking in with my Norwegian friends is a great ego boost.
     On my Alt for Norge blog,  I  share the back story to the weekly competitions and our adventures in Norway.  I also tell how it felt to find out that, before emigrating to the USA, my grandmother was in jail for murdering her great-aunt, an unknown detail of my ancestry that I found out ON CAMERA.
Check out: 
Altfornorgebarbara.blogspot.com/
You can also see the show as it has now been posted on You Tube - Search for:  Alt.For.Norge SE3E01
for the first episode - then change the number at the end for each consecutive episode - there are 10.  I am in episodes 1-5, but all of them are fun.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

ALT for Norge!!!

I can officially share that I was a contestant on Alt for Norge - a Norwegian reality TV show.  Yes, I am not kidding, that is why I was "traveling".  The show takes 12 Norwegian- Americans around Norway and every week there are "contests" during which one contestant is eliminated.  It was fun and not mean spirited.  The focus is on discovering Norway and genealogy. The winner got to meet their Norwegian family!

 It was a great experience!  The other contestants were great, the crew was wonderful, the country is beautiful and I got to eat salmon 3 times a day.  I cannot tell yet, if I won or where exactly we went or what we did.  I know, I am a tease.  The show will begin airing in Norway in September and the final episode should be in November or Dec. (They may be on You Tube)  After the final episode airs, I can share more details.

I did have a lovely time and hope to go back to Norway.  One of the reasons, I wanted to go was my ongoing obsession with Greenland.  Norway is somewhat similar and probably the ancestral home of my Greenlanders. I wanted to see the land, the flowers and the late night sun. My ancestors are also Norwegian, my grandmother left Norway for the United States in 1917, but died before I was born. I was hoping to learn more about her -which I did.  Enough to have me thinking of another book......

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Home

I have been traveling a lot recently.  The Dominican Republic, the Galapagos Islands, Norway, the San Juan Islands, and soon will be going to Alaska.  As much as I love going to far away places, it is always a bit discombobulating. Especially the coming home. Its not just the jet lag or the piles of mail or the plants that have died from needed water.  Its the home itself that I see with a stranger's eyes, a home that could almost be someone else's. I find myself struggling to re-connect, to remember why I live in Portland, Oregon and not some other lovely place. I know there are people who travel constantly, but I can't imagine it. If I stay away too long I become a visitor to my own home. Yes, there are the familiar do-dahs, the pictures on the walls, the cats and dog, but it still takes me a while to settle.  I have to sit and send out psychic roots, cook a meal, do some laundry and dishes, make a To Do list.  The mundane brings me home!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Done! The End!!

I did it!  I wrote The End on the novel I have been writing for far too long. 
My goal was to finish in 2011 and I finished the edits and sent it out to my patient critique group just before midnight New Year's Eve. Aren't deadlines wonderful!
I went back and checked the computer and my first meandering attempts at this story about Greenland were written in the fall of 2008.  If I had known it would take so long, I'm not sure I could have stuck with it.
But here I am ...done.  At least with a good- almost second draft. I have been reworking it along the way as my critique group has given me feedback- not exactly the easiest process, but it seemed to work for me.  I think I needed the feedback to help me focus and give me confidence to keep moving forward.
Now comes the next stage - sending it out.  I have been stalling for a good month - writing an Author's Note -that is needed to really understand how much the story is rooted in history - and a good query letter.
Stalling...  But finally, I just did it - spent a whole afternoon personalizing my query and hitting that send button.  Started with 8 agents - the ones I would swoon over and sweat nervously if I was in the same room.  Now I'm supposed to start something new and not check my e-mail every hour.  Right!  This is a very strange profession.