Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You Can't Go Home Again . . .

Remember that age-old axiom, "you can't go home again"? Silly. Ridiculous. Absurd. Of course you can. I did. And it taught me something, too.

I was born in Portland, Oregon, during the halcyon days of spring in 196... Well, let's just say I'm an Oregonian and leave it at that. For me, growing up in the Pacific Northwest was a dream. Rain was my favorite season. (Let's face it, when the sun did make an appearance our joints creaked more than the Tin Man in The Wizard Of Oz.)

A few summers ago, our family took a road trip back to my hometown, and I was the human equivalent of that dog we've all seen. You know, the one with the canine grin who blissfully sticks its head out of the car window as the wind whips its face. So great was my joy at seeing the Columbia River Gorge, I felt tears gathering at the corners of my eyes—from unrestrained emotion, not the wind. We stopped at Multnomah Falls, took the kids on a short hike, and then drove into the city.

We had no more crossed the Willamette than an angry motorist flipped us the bird. That put a momentary damper on my nostalgia. The weather was also chillier than I remembered. I'm not kidding, the Portlanders at the zoo wore woolly Peruvian sweaters and thick socks under their Birkenstock sandals.

In August.

Yes, that's the month we, in Utah, call The Hot Time or The Big Heat. (Okay. Maybe I'm the only one in Utah who calls it that. But we all think it, right?)

The Oregon beach was absolutely gorgeous. However, I am not the daredevil I used to be. After trying to body surf with my older children, I realized I couldn't tolerate the water temperature as I did before. Honestly, this water was freezing. My children ran in and then away from it.

How cold was it, you ask? Cold enough that you'd prefer to go skinny dipping in the North Sea in January than test it with your toe, cold enough that you wouldn't be surprised to see a polar bear doing the back stroke in the nearest tidal pool, cold enough that even the migrating whales wear wet suits when they pass through those waters. Alright. Maybe I'm exaggerating. Slightly.

Obviously, everything changes. Portland and I both look different after all these years. Truth be told, I've discovered that I prefer warm weather since living in the desert. I will always be a Portland girl. But maybe, I'm also a Wasatch Front, Utah county girl as well.

Revisiting the past is worthwhile. It illuminates the present. It helps us realize how good things were and often, how much better they are now. Home is a relative term, after all. When we're with the people we love, our roots settle, and we're there. I'm home each time my husband and kids walk through the door.

And yet, a bit of my heart will always belong to that beautiful City Of Roses.

Can't go home again? Hah. The next thing you know, they'll be saying you can't change a leopard's spots. Silly. Ridiculous. Absurd.

Do you have any vacation plans for this summer?

Saturday, June 18, 2011


The first time I met Elana Johnson was in a ladies bathroom.

No, really, it's true. We were both in Provo attending the 2010 Life, the Universe, and Everything writing conference. Seeing Elana there, I knew it was destiny. A few days earlier, my chapter of The League of Utah Writers had just been discussing her over lunch at Paradise Bakery. We wanted Elana to speak at the LUW Spring Workshop in the worst way, and there she was, just a few feet away from me!

Yes, I know it's tacky to talk business while in the loo, but I overlooked this common protocol and seized the moment. As Elana dried her hands on a brown paper towel at the sink, I asked her if she would speak to our group. Hmm. Maybe she felt cornered or stalked by a crazed fan--I know I would have in her position. Still, she was a good sport, and agreed to join us at the workshop. Her presentation on query letters was excellent, one of the very best I've seen. Elana's awesome talent is no surprise to those of us who follow her blog. (That's over 2,000 people, by the way)

Which brings me to my review of Possession.

I finished this book in an afternoon and then gave it to my teenage daughter to read. I was drawn in from page one, and let me just say, I'm pretty picky where openings are concerned. I really enjoyed the humor, and the wry, likable heroine, Violet. She lives in a world where Goodies and Baddies are mutually exclusive and free choice isn't free at all. Or even allowed. But Vi's certainly up to the challenge of bucking the system.

The plot is solid and interesting, moving along quickly, and the dialogue is great. But let's talk about this guy Jag. Whoa. Love at first read. He has it all. Good hair, bad boy attitude, heart, a sexy voice . . . We LIKES him, preciousss.

I have to admit, I was a little bummed when I finished Possession. You know you've read something worthwhile when it makes you laugh and breaks your heart a little as well. Last night, I went to Goodreads and learned this book wasn't a stand alone novel. It's Possession (Possession #1)! As in, there will be a #2 and hopefully, a #3.

Thank you, Elana.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Be Like That

All I ever wanted was to be an opera singer. Between the ages of 10 thru 25, I was consumed with this desire. I took bel canto lessons and practiced for hours each day. During high school, I earned honor credits with the musical training I received off campus and I went to college, on scholarship, in hopes of earning a vocal performance degree.

As an adolescent, I would shut myself in our family room, crank up the stereo, turn off the lights, sit on the naugahyde sofa, close my eyes, and listen. Just imagine the allegro con brio from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Or Chopin's Heroic Polonaise in A flat major. I heard passion, hope, sorrow, and triumph. I wanted to sing like that.

Dreams don't always mesh with reality, however. I wasn't Beethoven or Chopin. In short, the future I had hoped for during the first half of my life changed. In my junior year of college, I switched my major to English Literature. Why? Because I loved books! The Romantics, Victorians and Transcendentalists especially. Here began my second life.

Today, I still sing. For my mother, husband, and children. Sometimes in church. Writing now fulfills the need for self-expression that I thrived on as a vocalist. Even better, I can write and no one has to look at me out on a stage. At last I've found my niche! But old habits die hard. After finishing a writing exercise this morning, I clicked on my iTunes music library, turned up the volume on my computer, laid my head down on the smooth surface of my desk, closed my eyes, and listened. Jessye Norman's Amazing Grace. Pavarotti's Nessun Dorma. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Masterpieces all. In them, there is longing, joy, genius. I thought to myself. How do I write that? Be like that?

Have you ever heard a piece of music or seen a painting or photograph and then wanted to capture it in a story? What were your dreams growing up? Besides writing, what are your other talents?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Allyson Condie Appreciation Day

It would be creepy if someone as old as me liked YA literature, right? Of course right. That's common knowledge. (wink, wink, nod, nod)

Matched by Ally Condie is YA, and I loved it. This book is well-written, fast-paced and lyrical. It had me at Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight. The Dylan Thomas favorite figures prominently in the plot of Condie's dystopian story. I crave dark, passionate poems. They call to me as sirens would a sailor. I wasn't disappointed with the Thomas tie-in. His masterpiece fit into the plot, calling the characters to rebellion. I admire any writer who can do that.

Another plus! The next installment comes out in the fall. I have all summer to anticipate Crossed (Matched #2.)

My philosophical post script . . .
To quote Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

This poem challenges us to resist death. In all its forms. The death of body, soul, dreams, love. It urges us to fight the good fight, and never surrender. What a beautiful sentiment. So perfect for struggling writers.

Do not go gentle into that good night, my friends. Be bold. Think up something new, and write it down. Fall back into love with a troubled manuscript . . . even if you and your muse aren't speaking and rejections are camping out on your front step.

Keep reading, creating, and revising. You'll make your own light as you do.