Summer’s last hurrah

With the last days of summer tugging at us to come out and play, we packed up the Airstream, loaded the kayak and bicycles, and hit the road for a camping getaway at Sequim Bay State Park.

Our campsite peeked through a veil of trees to the bay shimmering in sunlight just beyond. The park has half a dozen sites with views of the water and we were thankful to have one of them. Other sites have hook-ups for RVs, but are closer to Highway 101. We like the quiet, and dry camping isn’t a concern.

Sequim Bay 8   Sequim Bay 9

 After settling in, hubby, pooch and I took off to explore and found a trail that wound down to the beach. A wooden bridge had been constructed over a streambed that no doubt rushed and gurgled in the spring, but was dry this time of year. Salal spilled across the bluff, ripe with berries, and partial tree roots jutted out from where they’d once hidden in the soil, now at risk of toppling into the sea in a strong wind.

Sequim Bay 1   Sequim Bay 2 Sequim Bay 3   Sequim Bay 14

The trail meandered back up to the campsites and ultimately brought us to the bicycle/hiker sites on the edge of the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT).

 Morning’s first light reflected in glassy stillness on the bay, beckoning us to plunge through it creating a wake with our kayak.

 Sequim Bay 10   Sequim Bay 11

Next I wanted to check out the House of Myths where the totem poles are carved by the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe. It was an easy bicycle ride on the ODT. The totems take on a life of their own under the capable hands of the carvers and, for me, the room was filled with magic and spirits.

Sequim Bay 4   Sequim Bay 5 Sequim Bay 6   Sequim Bay 7

S’mores around the campfire topped off dinner and a perfect getaway. We left early the next morning, heading back to work refreshed and renewed from a tranquil respite in the woods.

Sequim Bay 12   Sequim Bay 13


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Return of my muse

It’s been a year and half hiatus since that elusive essence of inspiration left me. Yes, I’ve still been writing, but it’s been the stuff of business—news releases, marketing copy, product descriptions and blogs for clients. But it hasn’t been the clamoring voices of the characters from my novel nor a burning desire to write poetry nor share the innermost thoughts of my heart.

What causes that spark of deeper communication to disappear?

I think it stems from Life when it gets too complicated or perhaps when the conflict in our daily lives is more intense than what we’re creating in our fictional stories.

It makes me appreciate professional authors all the more. I have friends who write every day no matter what craziness is going on their worlds. As a result, they’re successful, well-respected authors. I peter out and duck behind a busy, over-achieving work life. This is what separates the pros from the amateurs. Yes, I’m making a living and doing my job, but am I fulfilling my heart’s deepest desires?

I forget to nurture my muse and so she abandons me, searching for another who will feed her yearning for creative release.

This summer, I’ve reacquainted myself with my muse. Oddly, it started with selling a story to a regional magazine. Bless that editor! It was just the push I needed to sit down and write about a subject I love. I’ll post it here when the article is in print.

Fresh ideas began to sprout for other stories and I sent off a few more queries. Bam! Same editor liked my first story so much he gave me an assignment for a feature in their spring issue. You can bet I was doing my happy dance! I’m back in the game, once again writing a little bit every day. You’ll hear more from me now. Look for blog posts about our travels and things that inspire me.

The nurturing I mentioned above is important. It’s about getting off the merry-go-round and taking time to go for hikes with my dog, fly down single track trails on my mountain bike, walk on the beach, get out on the water in our kayak and spend time having creative, fascinating conversations with family and friends. These are the things that soothe my soul, ease my heart and nurture my muse.

Here’s a toast, with a glass of wine, to the return of my muse. Salut!

Early morning light at Cushman 7.14Lake Cushman 7.14

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Perfection…or not

Not long ago when I was talking with my daughter I noticed a tattoo on her arm I hadn’t seen before. I couldn’t read the words so I asked her what they said. “Perfection is not the goal,” she answered. Huh. Interesting. The words were situated on her arm so she could read them easily. Talk about having a mantra to live by close at hand—no sticky notes or post-its on the wall for my girl! It was clear she wanted to be reminded of this message any moment, any time. And it gave me pause for thought.

This beautiful young woman is a talented, professional photographer and a successful artist in her own right. I have the deepest respect for her sense of style, creativity and ability to see the world differently than I do. Which brings me to my point. I realized that much of my life has been spent in the quest for perfection. Had I imposed this on her as she grew up? Being honest, chances are probably yes. She was kind enough not to comment on that.

Before more could be said on the topic, our conversation moved on to other things and we hugged good-bye without circling back to her tattoo. But over the next few days I began to think long and hard about perfection…or not.

My young years were spent in hours of ballet classes. Every night after school I was in front of a mirror with a corps of other girls, muscles quivering as we lifted a leg higher or fell to the floor in a pirouette that wasn’t perfectly centered. We shaped our bodies through grueling exercises and learned to leap through the air—light as a feather—with power and strength. Ballet is an art form that demands perfection. And it was all I knew for years as a dancer.

My current artistic endeavor is writing a novel. Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo. Its very essence and premise is to send one’s internal editor (that strict taskmaster who wants everything perfect) on vacation for a month and let the creative spirit flow. Really, now that I think about it, NaNoWriMo should use my daughter’s mantra: Perfection is not the goal. Creativity is. And that brings me full circle. I think that’s exactly what she’s striving for. So am I.

Love that girl. She’s such an inspiration.

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Remembering my mom on Memorial Day

Today is the anniversary of my mom’s passing. You wouldn’t think after 23 years, I’d still get weepy, but I do. Some years, like today, the anniversary date falls on Memorial Day. That seems to make it even more poignant for me.

Her favorite flower was deep, dark purple iris. As a tribute to her, I have a cluster of them that bloom every year at this time. There’s a gorgeous bouquet of them on my table today in her honor. They remind me of her beauty—both inside and out.

When I think about it, she inspired me to write. She loved to tell me stories every night before bed when I was a kid. She would make them up as she went along and always sent me off to sleep with a cliffhanger, leaving me desperate for the next night’s episode. Her stories were elaborate and often complicated, with many plot twists. I loved them.

They were about faeries and elves, princes and princesses. And I was always one of the characters, although I had many different names. Now that she’s gone, I wish she’d written them down so I could have shared them with my children.

My mom often read books to me too, encouraging a deep and abiding love for them. And for stories of all shapes and sizes. When I got older, I read to her and then graduated to reading on my own every night before bed. That pattern has never changed over the years. I continue to read every night before falling asleep. I truly believe reading makes for better writing.

Moms are a beautiful blessing in our lives. Mine left me too early. So often I wish I could pick up the phone and talk over something with her, ask her advice, get her perspective. She was my best cheerleader, always supportive of my various endeavors, especially the creative ones like writing, painting or dancing.

Here’s to you, Mom. I still love you more than words can convey. And I still adore stories about faeries. Look closely. I’m sure there’s one hidden in the iris, winking at us.

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Recent Writers Conferences

After spending the last two weekends at writers conferences (a different one on each weekend), I’m grateful for a weekend “off.”

So yesterday I plunged into my garden, waging war with the weeds that were about to engulf all those lovely spring flowers. After a morning of hacking and hoeing, dirt under my fingernails, and aching muscles where I didn’t know I had muscles, I claimed victory over lunch with The Music Man (aka my beloved husband who’d spent the morning alternating between playing the guitar and mowing).

“Done! I beat the weeds back. At least for today,” I exclaimed enthusiastically with my mouth full of chips. His response? Wait for it. “But Sweetie, if all the weeds are gone, where’s the conflict?” Now that’s a writer’s husband, isn’t it? Gotta love him. He listens.

Last night, I gathered my courage and read a four-minute piece of the second chapter of my YA novel to a group of writers. It was a first for me, but I figured it was good practice for the day I have my first book launch (positive thinking!). I think they liked it. They clapped. Good sign, right? We can only hope.

But I digress from the amazing writers conferences I attended. Over the weekend of April 20-22, I attended the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Western WA conference in Redmond, WA. Wow! What an incredible and inspirational experience. They really know how to host a conference. I came away encouraged about my novel, with several of the agents encouraging me to query them. They liked the premise. It’s a good first step. The speakers fueled my soul and sparked my imagination. Theme for me? Write with deep emotion. Make my reader laugh and cry. Tug at their heart with my characters. Pull from my own emotional experiences and let my characters express it…raw, ugly or beautiful.

A balloon parade opened the SCBWI-WWA conference!

And how could you not love a conference that started with a balloon parade? That charmed me from the start! This conference confirmed my lifelong love of kid lit.

Last weekend, I participated in the NW Travel + Words Conference in Port Townsend. This was a smaller group of about 50 travel writers and destination marketing professionals. The speakers had great tips about freelancing, querying editors and how to make a living as a travel writer. Cool! Travel more. Be inspired. Write like crazy.

Mantra from both conferences? Don’t give up. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Stay open to what life throws at me and translate it into words evoking emotion. A good article inspires as much as a good novel.

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Tofino beach walk

Taking a break from writing for an invigorating walk on the beach in winter rain.

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Where Writers Write

Every writer has their own style and approach to writing. Many write first thing in the morning. Some late at night. Every single day. I’m not one of them. At least not for writing my novel. Until I get to the point where I’m writing novels for a living, I have to eek out time wherever and whenever I can.

Over the past two years I’ve finally figured out what works for me. I need writing retreats. Time to get away from thinking about my daily business life, which can be intense and stressful at times, and begin to allow Creativity to take over my brain. It’s a beautiful thing when that happens.

My ultimate place for a writing retreat, and where I reboot the best, is at the beach. I have a couple of favorites.

First is on the Central Oregon Coast near a beach where I grew up. My mom had a second home at this beach, though she’s gone now. We go there regularly, staying in our Bambi Airstream travel trailer. Since my mom always encouraged me to write, I often sense her inspiration here. The photo of this magical beach is at the top of my blog and my Facebook page.

A sunny moment on a winter's day in Tofino

The other favorite location, not nearly as affordable as the first one, is on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in Tofino, British Columbia. I love coming to this beach in the winter when the storms are raging, the wind whipping through the trees and rain pelting down. We stay in a gorgeous lodge in a room with a fireplace and a view of Mother Nature at her best. It was here that I finished my first manuscript in January. This will also be the setting for my second novel.

There’s nothing quite like writing for a few hours and then taking a break with a brisk walk on the beach with the dogs. It refreshes my brain cells and jumpstarts Creativity again.

Since both of these beach locations are a hearty drive away, I’ve also made a little writing nook in my home office. It’s separate from the desk where I work at my day job, tricking my mind into thinking this is also a retreat space. I sit on my futon, prop my feet up with my laptop on my lap and have soft lighting to get me in the writing mood. A big picture window looks out into the forest of firs, pines and cedars—appropriate fodder for my novel. The only challenge with this scenario is that periodically one of the dogs thinks they should help by resting a head on my keyboard. (I’ve lost a few great sentences this way.)

I’ve heard some writers say they listen to specific music when they’re writing or they light candles with a scent that evokes the mood of the story they’re writing. Those work for me too, but they aren’t as essential as getting a little time apart from the rigors of my daily business.

Every writer has their own writing life. What works for you?

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Poignant Beauty on the Olympic Peninsula

It’s a spectacular day on the Olympic Peninsula, not a cloud in the sky and the snow-covered mountains look close enough to touch. This is a gorgeous place to call home any time, but a day like today is a precious gift. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Chief Seattle given during his famous speech in 1854. His reverence of this land, and the ancestors who walked it centuries earlier, is still timely for me.

“Yonder sky, that has wept tears of compassion upon our fathers for centuries untold, and which to us looks eternal, may change. Today is fair; tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never change.

“There was a time when our people covered the whole land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time has long since passed away, with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory.

“Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some fond memory or some sad experience of my tribe.

“Even the rocks, which seem to lie dumb as they swelter in the sun along the silent sea shore in solemn grandeur, thrill with memories of past events connected with the lives of my people.

“The noble braves, fond mothers, glad, happy-hearted maidens, and even the little children, who lived and rejoiced her for a brief season, and whose very names are now forgotten, still love these somber solitudes and their deep fastnesses which, at even-tide, grow shadowy with the presence of dusky spirits.

“Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, its great mountains and its sequestered vale, and they ever yearn in tender fond affection over the lonely-hearted living, and often return to visit, guide, and comfort them.”

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Christmas Eve 2011

This is always a magical night for me. We celebrate with family and friends through music, singing and a giving spirit reflected in the gifting of presents, cooking and sharing delicious food. Throughout it all the focus is Love.

More than any time of the year, we have unconditional love for one another. What a beautiful gift this truly is. Let this holiday season be one without expectations—no preconceived ideas about what would make a “perfect” Christmas.

My wish is for us all to let go of what we think our family and friends should be or do. That means our interactions with one another can flow organically, without an expectation of who should be at dinner, where one should be celebrating or what gift should be given.

Christmas and the holiday season simply is what it is and we let the love flow freely, landing as it will and filling one another with happiness. It sounds utopian, but truly, if we relinquish our expectations and judgments about what we think should transpire, we are free to enjoy every single moment in the beauty of this season.

A few days ago we celebrated the Winter Solstice, calling forth the light from the void of winter darkness—a time of rest and contemplation— and into the glowing promise of illumination. It’s a time of rejoicing, a time of shimmering in this newborn radiance and letting unconditional love prevail.

I wish you a very Happy Christmas, filled with Magic, Light and Love.

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