Friday, July 23, 2010


I'm beginning to be in the world again. The residency ended with a rousing banquet in which kazoos were tooted on and songs were sung and tears and laughter flowed. Then back home to laundry, email, happy dogs, weeds, and summer with tomatoes and corn coming in from the fields. I sat on the back patio and drank gin and tonics and watched the grass grow for a few days.

But I wanted to share a piece of writing that I did during the residency. I was fortunate enough to workshop with Ron Koertge, a wonderful poet. Every morning before we dove into critiquing, we would do a little writing. On the fourth day we tried our hands at nonsense poetry--we were just the perfect combination of brain dead and loopy.

Here's what I wrote:

There was a girl named Rosie
who had a crooked nose.
She went to pick a posy,
but could not touch her toes.

She could not touch her toesies,
she could not scratch her knees.
She went to pick a posy,
but all she got was fleas.

I'm rather happy with this poem and feel it more than qualifies for inclusion on a blog that focuses on small and crooked. More nonsense might well take place here. Watch for it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Off to Summer Camp for Writing

This will be a short one. I'm slightly brain dead and very focused on the few remaining tasks I have to do to finish up the low-residency program in children's lit. I teach in at Hamline University. But I wanted to capture a few thoughts.

In this program we are kept busy basically nine to nine. Workshops, lectures, readings, BBQs, square dancing, zombies, deep reflections, and of course late night talks followed by early morning walks. I have taught in this program for over three years now, July and January, and while I don't seem to be doing it a lot easier, I feel that I'm getting ever more out of it. I worked with Ron Koertge this time in workshop and his quiet, steady humor and gentle persistent questions led me to cut about half the first chapter on a new middle-grade book I'm working on.

I'm home for an afternoon. And Peter (my guy and fellow writer) told me I had to stop thinking about the program for a while. So I sat down and wrote the first four pages of my next Claire Watkins. This books is pushing to come out. I'm promising it the rest of July and all of August.
Three more days and I'll be home. Very full of inspiration.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Getting Ready to Start

I did two book signings this weekend--one in Red Wing and one at Abode, a lovely gallery in Stockholm, WI. I was signing Frozen Stiff, my new book, the eighth in the Claire Watkins mystery series—hard to believe. I've been thinking about the ninth book for a long time, almost since the series started. Ideas percolate in my brain for at least a year before I try to write anything down.

The process of collecting bits of information for a book reminds me of what I think quilting must be like--finding a piece of fabric that you think would be nice in a quilt and then slowly over time gathering more and more bits of fabric that somehow might fit with the first. Finally one day you have to sit down and start. You have to be bold and begin to write. Laying it out, changing the order, pinning it down.

I'm getting very ready to start. In a way, I have already. I taught a class at Hamline University this early summer and had my students do writing exercises every class period to get us in the mood. I always write along with them. And I aimed all my writing at this new book. So now I really do have bits and pieces. Other than doing these exercises, I'm a very linear writer. I start at the beginning and plow ever onward until I reach the end.

I have a few more events to get out of the way—a visit from an old friend, teaching for almost two weeks in a low-residency program at Hamline—and then I will launch.

Claire and I are old pals. I look forward to finding out where her life is headed.