Catching Up

ponte-vecchio-bridge | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com
It’s been pretty quiet here on the blog the last couple of months. The good news is all is well. My husband and I spent a good chunk of October in Italy, roaming around Rome and Florence, taking in amazing artwork, eating so much pasta, and discovering the joy of gelato. We had an incredible time – some of which you can see over on my Instagram.

 

 

But I haven’t been completely silent. I wrote a couple of blog posts over at the From The Mixed-Up Files site that you can check out below:

Books About Museums

November New Releases

And I’m back to work on the novel I’ve been struggling to finish. Here’s hoping I can bring in all together soon. Wish me luck!!

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Changing Seasons

Changing Seasons | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comI was hiking with my husband the other evening, taking pictures of the sunset and listening to the coyotes call to one another across the sagebrush, when I notice the change in light, the shift in the particular shade of blue that defines the summer sky in this part of the country. It’s turned darker, deeper. A color that signifies the change in seasons here on the high desert. A color that, to my eye, means means the beginning of the the end of summer.

The next morning I woke to Eric Nixon’s fine poem, “Peak Summer”,  in my inbox. A little reminder to grab all the summer you can get, before it’s gone.

Peak Summer
by Eric Nixon

We’re steeped deep in summer
And everything around me
Seems to indicate it’ll never end
But still I’m spending time
Looking for the subtle signs
Trying to figure out when
We’ve reached peak summer
When the billion green trees
Start to dull ever so slightly
When the bounty of vegetables
Found at all the local farm stands
Start thinning in quantity and quality
When the Halloween candy
Appears in the supermarkets
And the Back To School! signs
Show up in the big box stores
When the sun sets a little earlier
And gets a little more noticeable
Each night, night after night
Until you start thinking about
How much daylight you’ve lost
All of the signs and all of the things
I’ve been noticing are telling me
That we’re right in the midst of
Peak summer and if I’m not careful
It’ll be completely over
And I’ll have missed it entirely
As the season folds into fall

“Peak Summer” by Eric Nixon from Equidistant. © Double Yolk Press, 2019

How do you know summer’s on the way out in your neck of the woods? Let me know in the comments section.

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Friendship

Laura | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com
My beautiful friend Laura is in the process of leaving this life. The news is both not completely unexpected, and, still, surprisingly sudden. Laura’s  been my writing buddy, my cheerleader, and my regular Wednesday coffee date for years now, and I’m going to miss her wit, her energy, her smile, and her writing more than I can pretend to know.

We took this picture last summer as part of a project she was doing. She photographed a day in her life – a day that consisted of breakfast and writing talk with me, a quiet memoir writing session on her beautiful deck, meditation group, and a glass of wine before dinner. Her days were the kind you dream about. A perfect mix of friends and family, of extroversion and introversion, of good wine, and good books, and deep conversation. The kind of day that comes from a lifetime of figuring yourself out and knowing what matters.

That’s Laura. Funny and smart. And forever herself. She has been my believing mirror – the person Julie Cameron says help us see ourselves and our dreams in the most positive light. The person who cheers us on when we are most doubtful of our abilities.

I only hope I have been that for her, too.

<3

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Camp NanoWriMo

CampNanoWriMo | campnanowrimo-badge | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comIt’s April – long past time for me to put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard and get serious about revising my work in progress. I’ve let it sit. I’ve had a friend read a good chunk of it and offer feedback. I’ve studied story and plot, opening scenes and endings. I’ve taken a ton of notes. And I’ve had a few hopeful moments where it has seemed that there is a story in there worth resurrecting.

And I’m not one to discount hopeful moments.
All of this is to say that I should be ready. Ready to rework and tighten, toss and rewrite.

Maybe I am.

April first is the start of Camp Nanowrimo, a 30 day writing challenge from the folks who bring us writers Nanowrimo – only this time with more flexibility. Do what you want for 30 days and track it by word count, time, lines, pages – whatever works for you.

The point is to the use the community energy and the public accountability to get you moving. To get you writing. Or, as in my case, revising.

And it works. I know it works because I’ve written two full novels (one of which became my debut) by participating in Nanowrimo’s 30 day challenge.

Still, I’m not sure if I want to do this. I used to be really great at sticking to things under all kinds of circumstances. I used to be great at finishing what I’ve started. But lately, I’ve been really bad at it. So bad that the thought of trying and failing feels scary. Way scary. You’ll never ever be able to do this scary.

I really don’t want one more example of how my normally great ability to persevere has waned in the last year or so. But I also kind of want to test it. To challenge it. To see if I can build it back up – like a misused and injured muscle.

Which is a drawn-out way to say that I guess I’m going to try it. Why not? April is all about resurrection and rebirth after all. And maybe Camp Nanowrimo will be just the thing to bring this novel to life. I fully intend to give it my best try.

Wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it went at the end of the month.

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Renewal

Renewal | Crocus | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

Some years, L.M. Montgomery’s truth is hard to believe. Some years, it feels like winter will never end, the sun will never shine, and the books will never be finished.

I started every day this month standing on my front porch, searching my flower bed for the promise of Spring – the purple crocus I planted that never fails to bring me my first glimmer of hope that the winter will end, the sun will shine, and life will be renewed.

This year that search took on a different quality – a desperate quality – as if not just Spring, but everything – me, my writing, my career, all of it – depended on a glimpse of purple blossoms in a muddy, snow-lined patch of dirt.

I checked every day, and every day, the flower bed was empty.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, I stopped looking in the usual place, right next to the porch, and let my eyes wander the entire length of the front flower bed. And there it was. Not the one tiny crocus I was expecting, but two big plants – one lavender, one purple, both full and open and smiling in the sun.

Renewal | Crocus 2 | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

Spring had arrived – just not in the exact place I had expected.

I’m hoping I will be able to say the same for myself – and for my writing.

Today, I launch into revising a novel that has taken me too long to write. A novel that has struggled to live underground as I wandered through a two-year long winter of my own. I know it won’t be the same book I expected it to be when I jotted the baby beginnings of the idea on an index card, but that’s okay.

It will be something different. Something fresh. Something new – springing out of all that those two years have taught.

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Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver | Sunflower| www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

I didn’t realize how much I have been leaning on Mary Oliver and her work the last two years until I read that she had died. The news struck me – the way hearing an old friend has died always does – swift and hard. A front kick to the chest.

I did what we all do when we hear of of a death – I felt sad. For her, sure. For the people who knew and loved her, of course. But also, selfishly, for me. Because I wanted more. More of her thoughts. More of her poems. More of, well, all of it. All that she’s learned. All that she’s seen. All that she’s willing to share.

What I really wanted was another book that I could read in the early morning hours before the cats and the husband and the sun showed up. Another book to keep me company and to remind me to keep living my “one wild and precious life” as best as I can.

Isn’t that what we all want?

Someone close to me has been reckoning with immortality lately and asked me my advice. As if I have any. I’m not religious. Not philosophical. Not particularly deep or wise or even all that opinionated. But I offered what I could. I offered poetry. “Poets seem to be closer to it than the rest of us,” I said. And the poet I was most thinking about when I offered this “cure” was Mary Oliver.

She’s helped me better see a world I recognize, and to appreciate what I love about it – the land, the animals, the quiet, the joy, and the heartbreak. I thought that she might help him. I hope that she does.

In her piece in The New Yorker, Stephanie Burt writes:  “Oliver’s decades of litanies and rediscoveries provided so many readers with what Kenneth Burke called “equipment for living,” tools to fight gloom, to open the front door, to lead wilder or more precious lives.”

I know she did this for me.

Thank you for the tools, Mary, and the message. You will be missed.

MESSENGER

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

—Mary Oliver

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Bringing in 2019

Bringing in 2019 | leave-the-dishes | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comIt’s here. 2019. Another ride around the sun and another trip through our crisp, clean new planners. A bright and shiny new year full of new chances, new hope.

I spent the last moments of 2018 finishing the novel that refused to be. It was rough. Ugly. A Hail Mary effort to have something to show for a year that was full of stress and fear and a pressing sense of deep unease. And, it worked. Kind of. Just as the neighborhood erupted in celebratory fireworks, I wrote the last words of a draft I honestly did not think I would ever finish. Then I went to bed, exhausted by the work and the doubt, yet exhilarated by the knowledge that what I thought was going to work won’t because now I understood why. Now I can do something about it. I have hope – maybe only a smidge, but hope just the same. It’s a feeling I haven’t had in quite a while.

I allowed 2019 to ease in without a lot of fanfare, hoopla, resolutions, or even my traditional goal-setting session. I spent the first week of 2019 resting. I read. I fiddled with end of the year tasks. I ran errands, rediscovered old TV shows, watched the snow fall, and even worked out a bit. And I didn’t set a single goal or make a single plan.

I already know what I want do and what I want to accomplish. The list hasn’t changed. But one thing I’ve learned in the last year and a half is something the poet Robert Burns knew long ago –  that“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”  I’ve also learned that so many of my goals rely heavily on things outside of my control. So, instead of making goals, I listed what mattered to me in the world. The reasons I sit at my keyboard every day. The things I’m trying to do with my writing. The actions that make me feel like I’m on the right path.

I hope to remember what matters to me this year and to shape my days accordingly. To ease-up, on myself, on my desires, on my day-to-day worries, and even on those around me.

A friend reminded me of a poem this week. One that lives on my refrigerator as a reminder of a brave and unconventional way to be in the world. I’m moving the poem from my refrigerator to my desk this week. I’m moving my energy from desperation to ease.
And, I’m taking Louise Erdrich’s wonderful advice to “Leave the dishes.”

Maybe you will too.

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Goals and Possibilities

Some days it’s easy to forget how far you’ve come. We humans have a tendency to look ahead. To focus on the next goal. The next project. The next big dream. And I think this time of year dials that urge up. My email box is filled with newsletters, webinars, and links to YouTube videos all promising to help me meet my 2019 goals. Planning. Vision Boarding. Goal Setting. There’s nothing wrong with any of it, but this year, I’m just not feeling it. Maybe it’s because all of my big goals for 2018 took a backseat to trying to keep my little family healthy and myself sane. Maybe it’s because I am finally starting to realize that that old quote about making god laugh has a little bit of truth to it.

But even with all the hard stuff this year, good came. KIT won awards. I made new friends. I visited a new place, and took some beautiful walks in some old ones. I even wrote some new words. Not a whole novel, yet, but most of one, and with some focus, a little bit of grace, and a whole lot of luck I could still finish it this year. (Here’s me looking forward again).

When I look at it all with adult-me eyes, it doesn’t feel like much. But, luckily, I spend a lot of my time looking at the world through the eyes of  a child, or at least trying to. And kid-me would not believe the year I’ve had. She wouldn’t have even imagined it was possible.

Earlier today I fell down a rabbit hole of research. (Well, part research, part avoiding the hard and scary work of putting words on the page). I was looking up old board games my characters could play on a rainy day. I was trying to remember which ones I had – the good ones and the bad – and this one came to the top of the list.

What Shall I Be Game | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com
I remember picking this game up at a yard sale. It was old-timey even then, but I grew up in a small town out west. Everything came a few years/decades late there. Music. Movies. Mocha lattes. And, yes, even possibilities. And this is nothing if not a game of possibilities. Six to be exact. Ballerina. Actress. Flight Attendant. Teacher. Model. Nurse. Those were the career choices kid-me was given in the the late 70’s/early 80’s.

The only one I thought was remotely possible was teacher. So that’s what I became. It was also the only job other than nurse, bank teller, house cleaner, store clerk, beautician, and secretary I had ever seen a real-life woman hold.

I have no idea if this game influenced my decision in any way. Maybe those awful pink and orange cards that said you were too overweight or too bad at makeup to be an actress or a flight attendant had a impact. Maybe not. It wasn’t very fun to play, so I didn’t spend that much time with it, but you never know what’s going to stick to you. I do know that it wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that the idea that I could be a real-life writer seemed possible. That it was even an option.

Which takes me back to kid-me who would be looking back at my year with wide-eyed amazement. I did all that, and I did it with my hair in a ponytail and no makeup? (Too things those awful little pink hearts and round orange cards deemed unworthy for most careers). Who would have imagined it?

Not me.

But here I am. Even on the hard days, the no words days, the no hope days, I’m here, doing a job that didn’t even seem possible. Living a life I never even imagined.

And even on those days, if I take the time to stop looking forward, I can see that it’s pretty awesome.

(If you’d like to read a fun article about the game mentioned above, there’s one here).

I’m an Oregon Book Awards Finalist!

or-book-awards
I’m beyond thrilled to see my book on the list of finalists for this year’s Oregon Book Awards!

Five years ago, when I was trying hard to do the things I thought real writers did, I submitted 25 pages of a manuscript I was working on to the Oregon Literary Arts fellowship program on a whim. Miraculously, I was awarded the Edna L. Holmes Fellowship in Young Readers Literature. I used the monetary gift they so generously presented me to attend a retreat that helped me shape that manuscript into THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF KIT DONOVAN. And now, that book is up for an Oregon Book Award! Talk about full circle.

It’s a real honor to be listed among the finalists for the ELOISE JARVIS MCGRAW AWARD FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE. The books are all incredible, and I wanted to give a shout out to each of them.


SHAKE A LEG, EGG by Kurt Cyrus

Oregon Book Awards 2018 | shake-a-leg-egg | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

From celebrated author-illustrator Kurt Cyrus comes a playful and whimsical picture book that celebrates the excitement and anticipation of a soon-to-be-born baby.

It’s springtime, and the pond is bursting with new life. There are beaver pups, heron hatchlings, and lots and lots of ducklings. Everyone is out and about, swimming, flapping, chirping, and quacking—except for one family of geese. When, oh when, will their last little one break on out and join the waiting world?

BRIDGE OF THE GODS by Diane Rios

Oregon Book Awards 2018 | bridge-of-the-gods | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comTwelve-year-old Chloe Ashton is an only child living in the remote wilderness of Oregon. She spends her days happily exploring the forests around her home, and is astonished to find the animals seem to know her, to follow her, and even try to speak to her. When a family tragedy results in Chloe’s abduction and sale to the vagabonds, she is taken deeper into the woods, and finds out just how much the animals know.

Set at a time when technology is first touching the west, there is an evil rising in the land. The country is under attack, and all creatures, man and beast, must hide. The old legends speak of an ancient, natural magic deep within the mountains and rivers, and as Chloe struggles to survive, she finds that it still exists deep within the forests. Friendship can be found even in the darkest of places, and it doesn’t always come in human form.

Bridge of the Gods is a novel for all ages about the magical power of nature, and of finding friendship in the darkest of places.

THE  MUSIC OF LIFE by Elizabeth Rusch

Oregon Book Awards 2018 | the-music-of-life | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comAward-winning biographer Elizabeth Rusch and two-time Caldecott Honor–recipient Marjorie Priceman team up to tell the inspiring story of the invention of the world’s most popular instrument: the piano.

Bartolomeo Cristofori coaxes just the right sounds from the musical instruments he makes. Some of his keyboards can play piano, light and soft; others make forte notes ring out, strong and loud, but Cristofori longs to create an instrument that can be played both soft and loud.

His talent has caught the attention of Prince Ferdinando de Medici, who wants his court to become the musical center of Italy. The prince brings Cristofori to the noisy city of Florence, where the goldsmiths’ tiny hammers whisper tink, tink and the blacksmiths’ big sledgehammers shout BANG, BANG! Could hammers be the key to the new instrument?

At last Cristofori gets his creation just right. It is called the pianoforte, for what it can do. All around the world, people young and old can play the most intricate music of their lives, thanks to Bartolomeo Cristofori’s marvelous creation: the piano.

LIFE by Cynthia Rylant

Oregon Book Awards 2018 | life | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comCynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel explore the beauty and tenacity of life.

Life begins small, then grows…

There are so many wonderful things about life, both in good times and in times of struggle. Through the eyes of the world’s animals—including elephants, monkeys, whales, and more—Cynthia Rylant offers a moving meditation on finding beauty around us every day and finding strength in adversity. Brendan Wenzel’s stunning landscapes and engaging creatures make this an inspiring and intriguing gift for readers of all ages.

And (because I’m so excited I can’t resist):

THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF KIT DONOVAN by Patricia Bailey.

The Tragically True Adventure of Kit Dononvan | Patricia Bailey | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comLife in a 1905 Nevada mining town is not easy for any thirteen-year-old. For Kit Donovan, it seems downright impossible. When her mother dies of a fever, Kit is certain she is to blame. Guilt-ridden, she is determined to honor her promises to her mother—namely to be a “proper lady.” Only being a lady is tougher than it looks. When Kit discovers that Papa’s boss at the gold mine (the menacing and self-serving Mr. Granger) is profiting from unsafe working conditions in the mine, she convinces her dad to speak out. But sometimes doing the right thing leads to trouble. Now Kit must find a way to expose Granger’s misdeeds before it’s too late. Aided by an eccentric woman, a Shoshone boy, and a drunken newspaperman, Kit puts her big mouth and all the life skills she’s learned from reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to work. With a man’s hat and a printing press, Kit defies threats of violence and discovers that justice doesn’t always look like she imagined it would.

The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony on April 30. I can’t wait to meet everyone and fan girl my heart out.

oregone-book-awards-state-imagetransparent
In the meantime, be sure to cast your vote in the Readers’ Choice Award survey!

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I Wrote a Picture Book!!

i-wrote-a-picture-book | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comAbout two months ago I had a flash of an idea. One of those flashes that come unbidden and out of nowhere and demand you pay attention to them. So I paid attention because I learned long ago that these flashes are gifts – from the universe or the muse or just some part of the unconscious that’s particularly tuned in at that moment – I really don’t know. But I do know that they always lead somewhere interesting. This time the flash led me to do something I never thought I’d do:  I wrote a picture book!

I never had any plans to write a picture book. It looked hard. Too hard. I’ve read picture books. They are amazing. And impossible. Tell an entire story in 500 words or less and make it smart and funny, poignant and heartfelt, rich and beautiful. The best ones do all this and more.

Making Picture Book Magic | I wrote a picture book | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

But I had an idea, so when my friend Janet told me about Making Picture Book Magic and offered to retake the course with me, I signed up. Then I dove in with both feet, dedicating time every day to write my picture book. And thanks to Susanna’s awesome lessons, boosts of support from my classmates, and the added gift of Janet’s eagle-eye critiquing skills, I did it! I wrote a picture book. A complete one. And it might even be kind of funny. Maybe. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I honored the flash and took a chance and created something brand new. I played with ideas and tinkered with words and had a blast just writing – with no expectations beyond the simple act of creating something.

It was awesome! So awesome, I decided to lean all the way and challenge myself to write a picture book each month as part of the 12×12 Challenge.
I’m pretty sure it will be difficult and frustrating and exciting and loads of fun. All the best adventures are.

12-x-12-picture book challenge | I wrote a picture book | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

I’m excited to be starting 2018 with a completed picture book manuscript, a really fun middle grade work in progress, and a plan. It’s the end of January, what are you excited about?

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