Friday, December 28, 2007

Four Calling Birds

It's the fourth day of Christmas (yes, I do count the 12 days--that's the only way I get my cards and cookies done during the season.) So today we celebrate four calling birds, and I'm pondering--what are the Four Calling Birds for me for this coming year? In my mind I see a white dove of peace swooping in, and that's my first calling bird--praying for peace, yes, in our world, and also in my own life.

Second calling bird: That cheerful chickadee who stays through the winter, coming to the bird feeder on our deck, not put off at all by the snow. Yes! He makes me smile, and gives me determination to get through the cold winter days.

Third calling bird. Okay, I'm thinking an eagle. We see them often here in the Northwest, majestic, soaring high over Lake Washington, not put off by the wild winds, but riding them. A good image for me to keep in mind when the tumultuous winds of life blow hard.

Fourth calling bird: A robin. A sign of spring--I know it will come: flowers and sunlight and the joyful chirping of that red-breasted beauty who shows up early, thank goodness, in our backyard cherry tree. Hooray for robins!

How about you? What are your Four Calling Birds? It's a fun thing to ponder, this fourth day of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Home for Christmas

I'm home again! Since I last blogged, I've spent ten days in Maui (with 3 grandkids, nine, three, and one-year) as well as 11 days with my 3 year-old grandson Weston in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And now I arrive home to our Pacific Northwest gray drizzle--but my heart is singing! There are Christmas lights everywhere, I have the carols playing, and I'm so grateful for this place I call Home.

I loved my visits with dear children and grandchildren. I will be blogging insights and memories from those trips for these next several months--from my first snorkeling ever, swimming with the giant turtles near Molokina--to my first ever Las Posadas celebration in historic Santa Fe Plaza this past Sunday.

But now, this rainy Tuesday, exactly one week until Christmas, I rejoice in the quiet moments in my own dear home to reflect on it all.

As a writer, I need this time. My soul hungers for it, like my body sometimes hungers for a bowl of my daughter's homemade soup. It warms me, comforts me, settles my spirit. From these quiet moments to reflect comes all that has meaning to me, both in my life and in my writing. Right now, this past month is still a blur to me, from my last hasty note to all of you when Anni's and my Snowflake finally posted (more about that later) to hastily packing shorts and sunblock for a trip in the Hawaii sunshine, to jumping waves at Wailea Beach with three-year-old Amanda, to making snow towers and throwing snowballs with three-year-old Weston in his Santa Fe front yard two days ago!

Are you confused? Me too! But now as I sequester (even if only for two days) and reflect here at home, I will sort it all out. I journaled, of course, on my trips, and I will be re-reading, praying, thinking, looking for the meaning of it all, pulling out those jewels of Truth that reside in each precious moment and event, and sharing some of it with you, some of it in my stories, all of it more richly in my life.

For this, I am so grateful to be Home for Christmas.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Snowflake has Arrived!

Yippee and double yippee! Our Snowflake is finally posted on the Robert's Snow website. Anni just emailed to tell me and we are both thrilled that it is finally up. If you'd like to take a look, go to, click on View 2007 Snowflakes, click on Auction 1, November 19-23, and scan down. Anni's snowflake, "Snow at Starbird Ridge" is second from the bottom. Isn't it beautiful? Actually you can see it in the blog entry just below, but you 'll need to go to the Robert's Snow website for bidding which starts a week from today, November 19th. What a wonderful way to make life better for so many--bid on a snowflake, help fund cancer research that will save lives--and get a lovely Christmas gift for someone in the process!

We'll update you again after the auction. Just a few more days and I am off to Hawaii with my daughter and their family, including three kids (ages one, three, and nine--Grandma will come back with lots of story ideas!) Hopefully the time will include some lounging in the sun as well. I'm smiling already, thinking of those balmy Hawaiian breezes and blue skies.

Blessings to you all this Thanksgiving week. There is much to be thankful for. I'm going to make a list and post it right here above my computer--how about you?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Snowflake is Coming! The Snowflake is Coming!

This is a quick note to let all you faithful readers who have been emailing Anni and me that you are indeed right: Our Snowflake is not yet available to view on the Robert's Snow website. Yes, it is scheduled to be in the first auction, as described in our Blog Interview below, and yes, we are promised it will be posted any day now! We'll exuberantly notify you right here, as soon as that happens.

In the meantime, keep looking, and enjoy all the other wonderful Snowflakes that are posted on that amazing website.

We'll all watch together for the rest of the Snow(flake) fall!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Robert's Snow!

This blog is a bit longer than usual but with good reason! Something wonderful is happening all over the United States now through December 7, and I have the joy of being part of it, thanks to Anni Matsick, my illustrator for our Starbird Ridge story series that has been running in Pockets Magazine ( for the past two years.

Anni is one of 200 children's illustrators who has joined Robert's Snow: for Cancer's Cure. She’s transformed a five-inch wooden snowflake into an original piece of art, and Hooray! She chose two of my favorite characters from the Starbird Ridge series to put on the snowflake: mischievous Annie--no relation to Anni, the illustrator :) --and Haggis, Annie’s feisty Scottish terrier.

The snowflakes are now on display in the Children's Gallery at the Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham, Massachusetts. They’ll be auctioned off online to benefit sarcoma research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute during three online auctions, on Nov. 19 - 23, Nov. 26 - 30 and Dec. 3 - 7. You can preview the snowflakes online (and if you’d like, place a bid) by going to

In our great excitement at being part of this event, Anni and I decided to do an interview to post here on my blog. Here it is below, along with a picture of Anni Matsick and the snowflake she has designed for the auction. I’m asking the questions, and Anni is answering.

Why did you choose Annie for the snowflake?

Annie is a charming, spirited little character who would enjoy a good snowfall so she popped into my mind instantly when I was thinking of possibilities. I’m into illustrating the third year of the series so I know her well and I particularly enjoy the episodes where she appears. Especially if she is wearing her red cowboy boots or has done her own pigtails. :)

As you mentioned, we're into writing and illustrating the third year of Starbird Ridge. Does any particular episode stand out in your recollection?

Yes, the ones where you made me work hard researching things mentioned in the story! I had to find visual references for bear bells, flame flowers, an Ethiopian cocoa pot, and many more things that figured in the plots. That’s how you and I got to know each other, through the email exchanges. Chris Schechner (Pockets art director) and I always laugh about having to contact Peggy again when we are stumped. We always agree that’s what makes your stories so special, introducing new, interesting things to your readers.

I have to admit, Anni—I do get a kick out of throwing in those little unusual details, and I smile when I see you figuring out ways to picture those in the series. I’m wondering though--Do you ever get tired of showing the same characters?

People asked me that when I did Goofus and Gallant for Highlights Magazine over a nine year period. The characters seem very real to me after a while so it becomes easier to portray their postures and emotions. There are quite a few characters in Starbird Ridge so enough variety exists to keep me interested.

As a closet artist/illustrator myself, I’m curious. What medium did you use? Could you describe your process for us?

I had to buy a new set of acrylics since I haven’t used them since college. My work for publishing is in watercolor. I practiced a bit on a piece of gessoed cardboard. The snowflake has two layers of gesso which I sanded for a nice, smooth surface. My composition was worked out in a sketch on tracing paper in reverse, so that when I rubbed it the pencil lines transferred to the snowflake surface. I began with light washes of color, diluting the acrylic paint with water, to lay in the palette. After that, I used the paint full strength to develop the image in small brush strokes. The facial expression is always the first thing to establish, then I work around it. I kind of loosened up on Haggis, with the snow on his coat.

Once the paintings dried I applied quite a few light coats of spray varnish to seal the image and create an even surface that I think enhances the work.

And I know readers may want to know this as well—could you tell us your background and professional experience?

My degree in painting from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh gave me a strong foundation in drawing and a valuable aesthetic sense. I’ve worked for close to twenty years in children’s illustration.

Looking at the snowflake you designed, and seeing how natural Annie and Haggis look on this snowy day, I have to ask you--Do you live in a place where it snows?

My home is in a college town in central Pennsylvania so I am very familiar with snowy winters! Snow has been lucky for me, since I acquired my reps Cornell & McCarthy when they saw an image depicting children making snow angels in an ad directory. It was one of my first covers for Pockets, which has been a great association over the years.

I recall the debut issue of Starbird Ridge had a snow scene on the cover done by you!

Yes, and the winning bidder will get a signed copy as a bonus.

Where can we see more of your work online?

Samples are on my reps’ website and at Picturebook online:

Anni, I’m so excited about this project, and so honored that you chose two of our Starbird Ridge characters for this worthy cause. Thanks for sharing with my blog readers some of your story. It will be fun to update everyone after the auction is over.

I’m excited about participating too, Peggy, and having two charming characters to make the snowflake special. It will be fun to watch the bidding!

And a final note to all of you: Remember, you can preview the snowflakes online (and if you’d like, place a bid) by going to . Anni’s snowflake will be in Auction One, November 19-23.

The master calendar for other snowflake illustrator features can be found at:
Click on any of the artists' names on the list at bottom to go to each blog.

And if you'd like to go to my (Peggy's) website to see what else I've been up to recently, come on over, at

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Walking in the Rain

The last day of September--how did that happen? It's pouring rain here in Seattle--so nicely seasonal, I have to smile. My grandson Jordan (age 9) and I just walked down our hill and back up with umbrellas and lots of good cheer. I'm guessing not too many folks would be wildly excited about an hour-long steep hike at 9 AM on a rainy Sunday morning, even if the reward was breakfast at McDonald's. (or maybe, especially not if!)

But if you're nine, and you're full of Sunday morning energy, and you love McDonald's Sausage McMuffin, and if you're celebrating your birthday with your Grandma who is almost as joyful as you are, well then, that gives a whole new light to it.

So Jordan and I discovered together the great satisfaction of feeling cold rain water in our shoes as we walked not around, but in the little streams coursing down our hill. We laughed together as our umbrellas turned inside out in the wind. We made silly rhymes as cars splashed us in their hurry to get to where they were going.

And we plunked ourselves down, warm and cozy at McDonald's, right at the foot of our hill, and enjoyed our well-earned, not-so-healthy breakfast. After all, on birthdays, especially cold and drizzly ones, we get to do things like that.

As the rainy days of fall and winter set in, it's a good thing to remember--how many unexpected joys can we find, if we just keep that nine year-old kid outlook?

I plan to remember this as I hunker down at the computer these next few gray and rainy months to write. But of course, I'll walk in the rain as well. You never know what new adventure might be waiting out there!

I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Stretching Our Horizons

I'm writing this week about an Inuit girl, Buniq, stepsister of Sammy in my Starbird Ridge series. I've discovered a wonderful word: silatujuq. It's the Inuit word for one who is wise, and it translates literally, Endowed with a Large Sky.

Isn't that great? I think of a visit we made to Montana a few years ago, and remember how awesome it was, that Big Sky stretching as far as I could see. Here in the Northwest, we have evergreen trees poking up into the sky everywhere, and while I love living in a forest land, it does make it hard to see the unbroken sky. The other night I went out on our deck at 4 AM to view the eclipse. Though the night was clear, my view of the moon was blocked by the tall evergreens in our back yard. In shoes and pajamas, I wandered our neighborhood until I found enough open space to view the orange-shadowed moon.

So it is in my writing sometimes: I see little pieces of things, get part of the picture. It takes awhile for that first flash of a story to develop into a cohesive plot, for those glimmers of a shadowy person to take on the solid shape of a fully formed and unique character in my story.

And in the process, I need to do a lot of thinking, meditating, walking, moodling--getting to that place where I have an unbroken view of this story. For it's not just the plot and characters I need to see clearly, it's that inner life, the insight and understanding that comes to me as I'm writing, something I can't always put into words, but which is the true heart of the story. It's what gives me (and hopefully the reader) a little chill, a sense deep inside that here is truth, here is meaning, here is something to nourish and remember, be it Miles freeing the true victim from the Shriker in Janet Lee Carey's The Beast of Noor, or Stephen finding the only way possible to save his sister Maria in Helen Szablya's and my book, The Fall of the Red Star.

This week, as I come to see the bigger picture for Buniq and Sammy, and perhaps the bigger picture for this whole Starbird Ridge series, I will take time to journal, to ponder, to pray, to walk--to get to that place where I can see more clearly.

May all of us this week, in whatever we encounter, find a place to stretch our horizons, to discover that we are indeed, silatujuq, Endowed with a Large Sky.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Dreams In the Night

This whole thing of finding ideas for our stories can be a challenge. There are ideas everywhere, of course, but which ones will have staying power? Which ones will hook into our hearts in a way that we'll have the energy to finish that story we started with such eagerness. In my next few blogs I'll share some things that work for me.

Number one thing (for me) is the idea HAS to be a sound from my heart, like the title of this blog. That is, it has to tie in emotionally for me in some strong way. That's why I like to pay attention to my dreams. Yes, I mean my real dreams, the ones that come in the night as I'm sleeping.

But how to do that? And how does it help? Lots of folks say they can't remember their dreams, and others don't want to. What I've found is that I CAN remember at least some of my dreams, with a simple prompt which I'll share in a moment. And I've also found, if I write down, "journal" my dreams right away in the morning, I often find a spark of a story in that seemingly jumbled dream made of of lots of images from my previous day.

Here's how it works: I tell myself, just before I fall asleep, "Tonight I'm going to remember my dreams." Then I go to sleep. As soon as I wake in the morning, before getting out of bed, I think, "What did I dream?" After a night or two of doing this, I begin to remember at least tattered shreds of my dreams, and I write these down right away in my journal. Oftentimes, even writing them down, little "Aha!" moments come to me, and I'll see a meaning I didn't before--something I'm struggling with clarifies, or an insight I didn't have before comes to me. Some of these help me in my life, some of them come into my stories. I think I've shared before in another blog, that the ideas that work for me in creating story are almost always two ideas coming together, creating a spark that runs right up the back of my neck, sometimes giving me a literal chill. Oftentimes one of the ideas will be something that is troubling me, or that I'm struggling with, and that is the piece that often surfaces as I'm writing down my dream. When that piece comes together with another idea--could be a story I'm working on, or something one of my grandkids does, or something I read about in the paper--ZING! I'll feel that little tingle up my neck, and I know I've got an idea that's got staying power.

Example: An actual dream I had a while back. I was climbing a grassy hill, trying to get to a little stone house at the top. Behind me was a roar, and I realized a monster was heading up the hill behind me. I ran, trying to reach the top of the hill, the little stone house, and safety. But you know how it is, running in a dream--slow going. The monster was gaining, though I was running as fast as I could. I made it though, to the stone cottage, out of breath, the monster hot on my heels, and I turned the door knob, struggling to open the door.

It was locked.

The Monster was upon me, and I couldn't get into that house, that place of safety.

I stood there, hopeless, helpless, waiting to be destroyed by this huge furry monster that was breathing over my shoulder. Then, looking like one of the monsters in Maurice Sendak's book, this giant being reached around me, unlocked the door, and gently let me in.


I wrote down the dream, knowing even as I wrote it, the clear meaning: The very thing I fear the most will be the thing that lets me into the place where I most want to be.

What a profound truth. I've thought about this dream many times, in my own life, and in the life of my characters in my stories. At the time, in the book I was working on, SAFE AT HOME my main character Tony had to face the scary monster of his Mom's alcoholism. He spent a good part of the book determined not to look back over his shoulder and see that monster. But eventually he got brave enough and looked.

In the book I'm working on now, TWO MOON JOURNEY, Simu-quah has to face her own anger at the Red-Bearded Soldier who has been so cruel to her father. She avoids that for a long time, but of course in the climax chapter, she has to come face to face with her own anger and decide what to do about it. In this case Forgiveness opens the door and lets her into that place where she needs to go.

I've journaled lots of dreams over the years--and insights from those dreams have powered my stories in all kinds of ways, from specfic images or characters, to plot events, to sharp awareness of story theme.

Starting tonight, I challenge you to dream along with me, and write it all down in the morning.

Who knows what doors you'll unlock?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Down in the Valley

Yesterday, we made a family trip to Rattlesnake Lake. The crew wanted to hike to the top of Rattlesnake Ledge. Part of me wanted to get to the top too, even though that sheer cliff drop at the top made my hands clammy to look at it. As it turned out, I wound up hiking just a little way up, then returning down with my little grandson Weston, whom I've written about before. The two of us had a lovely time on our return trip, Weston taking time to hug a tree (he was so delighted to find one slender enough to wrap his arms and really hug), and saying hi to every hiker, old and young, who passed us on their way up or down.

Down in the valley, we found a prime spot in the grass by the lake and used our binoculars to watch his two uncles, who made it all the way to the top of the mountain, and who were perched out on the very edge (yikes!) waving to us.

It was a different perspective down in the valley. Through Weston's eyes it was wonderful, seeing those on the mountain top and getting excited about them, but also thoroughly enjoying every thing around us, down in the valley. We pretended to be helicopter passengers on a big log, with Weston piloting us. We found some great rocks to pick up, rolled in the grass, and laughed as the wind off the lake tickled our faces. Once more it's a lesson for me, both in writing and in life. It's great to be on the mountaintop, but most of us spend a whole lot of time down in the valleys. Why waste energy wishing we were on the mountaintop? Wave to those who are there at the moment, cheer them on--and pay attention to all the wonders in this part of the valley we're in. Right now my writing valley includes some delightful short stories for Pockets, some brainstorming for my next writing project, dinking around with my almost ready to market novel, and tons of everyday experience "research" as I enjoy all my family members coming through for visits here in the lovely Northwest.

And come to think of it, that is the valley of my life right now, and it's a pretty wonderful place to be. It's blessing to have kids and grandkids and friends all around me through this summertime, to do the ordinary things together. I'll have the Mountain Top experiences again, I know. For now, there's a lot of joy right here in the valley.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Santa Fe Musings

Wow! I'm not doing so well with this blogging thing, despite all my good intentions. But here we go again. I'm just back from a wonderful 11 day visit with my daughter and son-in-law in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and with my exceedingly brilliant 2 1/2 year-old grandson, Weston.

I know all grandmas think their grandkids are brilliant, but this child is not only speaking like an adult, he's also pondering life in a way most 2 year-olds don't do. I think he's going to be a writer!

Just one small example (which I will use somewhere in a story, I know.)Weston was sitting in his high chair, eating raspberries and staring thoughtfully into space. After a few moments of silence he said, "Mommy, do bunnies have fur so they won't get sunburned?"

I smiled, thinking ah! If only we were furred, I wouldn't need to lather on all that sunblock I was using in that lovely Santa Fe sunshine. But what if we were furred? All different sorts of colors and textures?

I found myself pondering all sorts of story ideas while with Weston--his way of perceiving life delights me. He loves to talk about and draw "plicky fish," his own invention as far as I know. We had lots of discussions about plicky fish, and I must say the world would be empty without them, now that I have seen them through Weston's eyes. According to his most recent picture, they have brilliant blue eyes, a generous mouth that extends the width of their body, and two delightully designed orange fins to keep their balance. Plicky fish have great adventures too.

I can hardly wait until Weston writes about them.

In the meantime, here I am back from Santa Fe, with my next Pockets deadline staring me in the face. As I sit down to begin, I pray to bring to my writing just a touch of Weston's joyful and creative insight.

And who knows? Maybe even a plicky fish or two.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Putting it All Together--Life and Writing

I find myself always searching for ways to integrate all the many parts of my life: my family--those dear grandkids whom I never get enough time with; my writing, ditto, my church sharing group, those ordinary business-y things like grocery shopping and paying the bills, a time for solitude, journaling and prayer. Not necessarily in that order--but all these things and more compete for my energy and attention.

This week I've found an answer to my dilemma, a new way of looking at my life and integrating all the parts of it. I'm reading a wonderful book, immersed in the sacred, by Kathy Coffey, In it she talks about what she calls the sacraments of the world--signs and symbols of daily life that point beyond themselves, to something mysterious and holy. In her words, "This world shouts of the sacred."

And I realize this is what I yearn for in every part of my life, from my writing to my daily small encounters with others, to find meaning, to find the sacredness in all of this. So giving a cup of juice to my two-year-old granddaughter can be a sacred communion. Writing a fiction story about the Flower of Forgiveness connects me with all others who have struggled to let go of a hurt, big or small. Smoothing on my favorite Rose Lotion in the morning is a symbol of the sacred annointing I want to give each person I meet, a tenderness to carry through their day.

I'm excited! As I read more about sacrament and symbol, I'm more and more finding a connecting meaning between each small action of my day, a richness that makes my throat ache.

And now, as I sign off to head out and do some gardening, I look forward even to the weeding of the dandelions--another sacramental sign. I'll be pondering all those things I want to weed out of my life. I'll remember this the next time I'm revising a story--weeding out the dandelions, making room for those azaleas and spring pansies instead.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Starting Over

Those of you who've been checking in have noticed it's been a long time since I've posted a blog entry. There's a good reason.
On October 23rd, just ten days after my last posting, my beloved husband of 42 years entered the hospital, seriously ill. He died November 24th, the day after Thanksgiving.
This blog is not a personal blog, in the sense that I am not sharing my grieving online, but I do want to acknowledge all the care and support I've had from our writing community, from the many cards and letters, to the flowers and wonderful meals sent, especially by SCBWI members and board. Our family has been truly surrounded by love and care in these hard months.
Now it is time for me to get moving. I am writing again, starting to catch up on my Pockets stories (and many thanks to my editors there, so understanding of my missed deadlines these past few months.) I'm also pondering what comes next: Start a new book? Finish that one novel that keeps needing a rewrite? Continue on with the next book for my Chapter book series? I'm listening hard for that Sound from my Heart to get me moving again.
For right now, it means committing to my writing time, even when I feel like I'm just wandering in a writerly wasteland. Two hours a day, that's what I've committed to for right now--and to do it first in the morning, before I start in with the business-y stuff. (Lots of business-y stuff after a loved one dies.)
So this week I'm researching the Cactus League, Forgiveness, ADHD, Emus, Australia and Skateboarding--all for different aspects of my writing projects.
That's one of the best things about writing--all those different worlds I get to visit, via the internet and books, as I delve into my own story worlds. It feels good to laugh with Miguel as he creates a baking soda/vinegar volcano with his little brothers, to follow Sammy as she figures out how to survive the play director who has just betrayed her, to rejoice with Simu-quah as she discovers the Secret of the Corn.
Here's to each of you--to the writing worlds you will visit and create this week.
We'll rejoice together as we hear and share all those new Sounds from our hearts!