Friday, October 13, 2006

A Party to Remember

October 13, 2006

Wow! Last night at Parkplace Books was an evening to remember. Over 150 of you attended--the store was packed! Sandor Boldishar brought his homemade sausage sandwiches (Seattle Times featured him yesterday, holding up a rack of his freshly made sausages.) He and his wife Christine brought trays of Beigli as well, a delicious Hungarian pastry. We all feasted while we listened to Orvan Laszlo playing violin, with Sue Iceley's amazing Dance Troupe performing traditional Hungarian dances from different regions.

We had a surprise appearance of the Carpathian Quartet, just arrived here in the states from Hungary, and eager to give us a taste of their music before their concert tonight.

Food and live Hungarian music and dancing--what a celebration. Helen Szablya, who co-wrote The Fall of the Red Star with me, retold the story of her family's escape in 1956, and I had an opportunity to share some of my experience in writing the book, as well as reading Chapter 20--the first attempt to escape in an old convoy truck.

We had prayed this would be an evening for the community to come together in joyful celebration of faith and freedom, and it was everything we could imagine. We laughed and cried together, heard many sharings of different escape experiences, from the many Hungarian-Americans who joined us. Everyone left Parkplace Books with their heart at least a little bit warmer than it was when they came in.

I smile today, remembering--so many sounds echoing in my heart from last night.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Party Time!

September 12, 2006

Wow! It's great fun when old books get new life. This coming month (October) marks the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. And that means that all over the U.S. there are celebrations and commemorations going on as the Hungarian people remember an event that shook the entire world. It just so happens that Helen Szablya and I co-authored a book about that amazing time, and now we get to celebrate it all over again. The book is THE FALL OF THE RED STAR, a historical fiction account of Stephen Kovary, a 14 year-old freedom fighter and his family's harrowing escape from Hungary. The celebration is a Hungarian Freedom Party, which Helen and I are hosting Thursday, October 12th at Parkplace Books in Kirkland, Washington. You're all invited! We'll have a Hungarian dance demonstration, and Hungarian goodies to taste, and Helen will tell the story of her own family's escape with their 1o day-old baby. It's a startling story (can you imagine having to teach a baby not to cry at all, in order to save all your lives? Helen tells how it's done!) And in spite of it all, this story is one of joyful hope, of a people of strong faith and integrity, who know what True Freedom is all about.
I'll be filling you in on the details as the day gets closer--hope lots of you will join us for this evening of music and dance and exciting discovery. (Not to mention some delicious treats.)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Half-Full Moon. Half Cupful of Wisdom

August 2

A beautiful perfect half-moon as I walked a few minutes ago, and the faint fragrance of wild roses, remembrances of long ago summer evenings. Tonight it's cool, even a little breezy, but I'm still thinking of a red-hot evening two weeks ago, when I got to listen to Katherine Grace Bond read from her new book, Considering Flight at the Duvall Speakeasy Cafe. I don't think anyone in the packed room escaped without a heart-touch, as Katherine laid bare her own heart. The father-daughter relationship! So poignant, so painful, so capable of joy. That night we all went away pondering our own family relationships, aching perhaps, for what might have been--but also stirred by Katherine's readings to the hope of healing, to the good that is there even in the imperfect.

And tonight, I'm thinking of my own Dad, of family trips to Mt. Lemmon, singing our silly songs, of his nightly bowl of popcorn before bed (and sneaking us a napkinful for under our pillow, when he came in to say goodnight, even though we'd already brushed our teeth.) My dad was impetuous and loving, quick to anger, quick to forgive, always believing in us. He was so proud of me when my first book (Coming Home) was published. "I always turn it face out when I see it in the bookstore," he told me. "But I'm afraid if I tell the owner you're my daughter, she'll think I'm the alcoholic in the book." (He wasn't.)

Thanks to Katherine Grace Bond and her reading, I'm remembering a lot about my Dad this couple of weeks. He wasn't perfect, but he was close to it, in my eyes. The dads in my stories usually come through in the end. And even when they don't, there's a half-cupful of wisdom to be gained.

Hooray for half-moons, as well as full! Hooray for the half cupful of love as well as the full


Friday, July 21, 2006

Sounds from my friend's heart

July 21, 2006

We're sizzling here, in more ways than one! It's 90 degrees in our house right now, and we Northwesterners wilt once we hit 80. (I know, no sympathy from the rest of the country, where many of you have temps well over 100 degrees today. )

But the REAL sizzle, the wonderful sizzle I want to write about today is The Beast of Noor, my writing friend's new young adult fantasy. This sound from the heart of author Janet Lee Carey is the story of the Shriker, a massive beast of incredible strength, who roams the dark woods of Noor, killing those who encounter him, held in the spell of a long ago curse. Even more, it's the story of Hannah and Miles, brother and sister, seeking to break the curse of their long ago ancestor who started it all.

For me the most wonderful thing about Janet's book is the depth of her own spirit expressed in the lovely language of the book. I read a heart-stopping passage like "A searing pain ran down Miles's right flank as he crept along the passage. He wanted to lie down, to change back into himself, but he couldn't rest, couldn't risk changing back while Hanna was still in danger. He needed all his animal strength to kill the Shriker before the beast attacked again."

Then, a few pages later in the book, "The Falconer held her, and she cried into his wool shirt. The shirt smelled like winterleaf, and under that a woodland scent like Granda's used to have, and that made her cry all the more. He patted her shoulder in quiet rhythm until her sobbing ceased. She sat back and the old man looked into her eyes. 'I've set my mind on finding him, Hanna. You should know this.' "

I admit, I'm unable to put down this lovely long book (497 pages, including the Noor/Oth glossary.) And this is despite the fact that I got to see most of it in its earlier drafts in our writing group.

Our dear Janet is going to be truly famous some day, famous like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I have believed that for a long time. That is not her personal goal in writing, but as she opens for all of us the vast enchanted country of her own heart, it cannot help but happen.

I hope you'll look at her amazing website ( . You'll delight just in her opening page! Better yet, buy a copy of The Beast of Noor, and experience for yourself Janet's Deep, True Magic.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Write Weather

June 26, 2006

It's hot, hot, hot outside, but I am comfortably cool! I'm downstairs, hunkered next to the computer, with the tiniest breeze wafting through my office window. It's the right time to write! Okay, I admit it, when our young adult son zoomed by an hour ago to pick up his swim shorts and head for the lake, a little bit of me thought "Why write today? Why not play?" But my Pockets deadline is looming (next Monday-yikes!) and I yearn to get back to working on my book as well. That means hot or cold, this is the Write Weather.

Apply seat to chair and write. Okay, the first draft may not be brilliant. But by golly, by the time I get up this afternoon, the draft will be written. And my side benefit will be, no sunburn.

That said, I'll admit, sometimes in the summer I take my printed-out story draft with me, head for my favorite park, and rewrite at a picnic table. Hmm, sounds like a good plan for tomorrow. I'll bet I can find a nice shady table, with a bit of breeze off the lake. It will be just the Write Weather, I'm sure!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

And A Little Child Shall Lead You

June 15

I've just spent a lovely week with my daughter Deb and our 19 month old grandson, Weston, visiting from Santa Fe. Weston is learning to talk, and it's amazing what he does with his somewhat limited vocabulary. He tells entire stories with just four words. "Ball?" he says to me. Ever the compliant Grandma, I grab the ladybug ball. "Knee," he says, and points to his knee. "The ball hit your knee," I say, remembering the story his mama told me. He nods sadly, blows a kiss and puts it on his knee. "And Mommy kissed it to make it better." He nods again. "Hat," he says, pointing to his head. I smile. "Yes, you were wearing your hat when the ball hit you."

Weston sits back then, the tension relaxes from his body and he smiles. He has told his story and been heard. And he's done an amazing job of it! We have a main character, a problem and a resolution to the problem. (Mommy kissed his knee.) We even have some setting: the hat he was wearing!

Sometimes I think it behooves us in our writing to keep it simple, to look at those basic elements: plot, character, setting, when we get stuck. I just got off the phone, after going over a manuscript edit I did for a client, a wonderful and moving story of a young man struggling with the guilt of his best friend's death, for which he feels responsible. My client is struggling with this very thing: getting back to the basics, getting rid of those extra scenes that don't move the story forward. I consoled him, telling him of my same struggle as I rework yet another revision of my current novel, Finding Nonna--the story of a 12 year-old dealing with her beloved grandmother who has Alzheimer's Disease. So many wonderful scenes have bit the dust as I try to get back to the basics. I think this week as I write, I'll think of Weston, and take my cues from him: "Ball, Knee, Kiss, hat." Sometimes that says it all! Weston may not fully know it yet, but this week he gave me a Sound from his Heart, and I am grateful.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Recurring Sounds!

A Sound from My Heart

May 30, 2006

As I write, whether it's a short story for my Pockets series, or a chapter for my current novel, Two Moon Journey, I find recurring themes weaving in and out, some big, some small. (My writing group accuses me of putting chocolate chip cookies in almost every story I write, something I need to ponder perhaps!) But I'm getting at something a bit deeper here. Like forgiveness. When all is said and done, my characters seem to struggle with this--the need to forgive or be forgiven. Whether it's 8 year old Sammy who's just shouted away her best friend Pete (whose duck Drabble has just eaten her slug collection) or 12 year old Simu-quah whose hatred for the Red-Bearded soldier holding her father prisoner propels her into a dangerous encounter by the jail wagon, my stories seem to echo and re-echo with the need for forgiveness.

And so it is in my own life--this is a sound that rings true in my heart. Every day I'm in need of forgiving or being forgiven--usually both.

Often enough, it's in my writing that I work out my own forgiveness struggles. Sometimes this takes a long time and lots of prayer.

Sometimes it's accomplished with as little a gesture as offering someone a chocolate chip cookie.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Ideas--Sounds from my Heart

May 26, 2006

As a writer of stories for children, I often have the opportunity to go into classrooms and talk to kids about writing. "Where do you get your ideas?" they all ask. From things that really happen, from my own childhood, from watching you, I tell them. But what I often think about, and usually share, is the Japanese way of saying "Idea." Two Japanese characters comprise the word, and they translate as A Sound from the Heart.
Ideas. Sounds from the Heart.
I love this!
Any worthwhile idea I share in my writing is a Sound from my Heart. I've gotten adept over the years at recognizing these when they pop into my head, like a lightbulb flashing on. But there's a difference: when the idea is a Sound from my Heart, there's something that resonates within, like a bell ringing deep inside me.
That's what I want to share in this blog---some of those sounds from my heart: ideas about writing, about grandchildren, about life. Who knows what sounds from my heart will ring out, if I take this listening-sharing time each week? Twice a week, that's my goal to start with, to share some sounds from my heart with you--and to listen to the Sounds from your heart that you share back.
Let the Heart-Sounds begin!