Saturday, January 7, 2012


I'm excited to announce that CAYMAN SUMMER is an official Whitney Award nominee. Thanks to all of you who nominated it. And thank you to the wonderful community of readers who found this blog and followed while I wrote it. You added so much. If I could, I'd write all my books on the blog.

I'm packing my bags for another trip before I'm done blogging about my last big adventure. I'm going to save the pictures and story of my journey through Jerusalem for Easter. It's perfect to post around then. Meanwhile, I'm planning some new contests to keep things lively while I wait for word about SLIPPED and MY ONLY LOVE. I pray we have good news about them soon.

So, where am I headed? I'm leaving beautiful, sunny Arizona . . .

This is a sunset shot I took from my front yard. I love the desert. Especially in January!

And flying until midnight tomorrow night to get to Montpelier, Vermont for Vermont College of Fine Art's winter residency.

This is Vermont College last time I was there--in the summer.

I get to be a graduate assistant and help the incoming MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults candidates. It's supposed to be sunny--at least for a few days--but it's going to below freezing and will probably snow by the end of the week. I love Vermont College. It's worth getting cold to get to spend ten days with the best children's writers and faculty in the world. My time at Vermont College changed my life. I'm excited to reconnect with my mentors and mentor some younger writers. I'll try to post pictures (of all that snow!) and some reminiscences while I'm there. 

Michael was born in a free write during my very first Vermont College residency. Leesie evolved in response to him. I wrote the poem about her experience with her grandmother after I had a similar experience at 3 a.m. in one those old dorm rooms. Wow, that was ten years ago this July. My grandmother still inspired me. I hope to start work on a middle grade novel inspired by my grandmother's illness told from my mother's point of view. Maybe I'll get some work on that done while I'm in Vermont. I'll keep you posted. 

One thing I always do at Vermont is write poetry. Mostly poetry about writing. Here's one of my favorites.

Muse at Midnight

Settling to sleeping stillness--

     fresh and tingling clear words
in a foaming tumble
in a whirlpool torrent
sucking me



churning, casting me
onto the page
beached and breathless,

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Jordan River

Happy New Year! I hope you are all blessed with health and happiness and lots of love in 2012. Thanks to the followers who entered my Christmas Week contest. You all win! YAY!

This is our last stop in Galilee--the Jordan River. There are two sites that claim to be the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. It's all speculation and no one really knows. Our guide said he was probably baptized at the site closer to Jerusalem--where the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea. We got there after dark, so couldn't see a lot. I just wanted to touch the water!

There's an area cordoned off so people can get in and be baptized. They rent white clothes at the huge gift shop. Yes, those heads are people in the water.

There was some kind of creature--muskrat or something like it--swimming in the river. You can't  quite make it out.

This is the view upriver. I prefer this shot because it feels less commercialized and more authentic. John and Jesus could step out of the trees and right into the water.

On our way out, look what we found. A tree planted at the site by Glenn Beck on his trip to Israel last summer. Had to chuckle at that!
After a thorough search of the gift shop that yielded a very cute camel dress-up hat for my Nativity dress-up collection, we hopped on our bus and drove through the night two hours to Jerusalem. We ate a quick dinner and then the bus took us to an amazing olive wood shop. But we left our cameras at the hotel, so I don't have pictures of it. We bought a beautiful nativity carved of olive wood. The owner, an Islamic Arab, told us the shop where it was carved is in Bethlehem. Bethlehem is in the Palestinian controlled area, so to go there you have to plan to spend a few hours going through the checkpoint. We only had two days in Israel, so we couldn't go to the Savior's birthplace, so it was lovely to bring home a piece of it with us. 

Yes, we did all of this in one day. Our heads were spinning. We spent the next day in Jerusalem. Watch for that in upcoming posts.