Sunday, December 29, 2013

Count Down

December has been a busy, exciting month, and not only because of the lights and trees, gifts and treats, family and friends. My first novel, Running Secrets, has chugged along through editing and layout on track to meet the scheduled release date: January 7, 2014. 

The wonderful thing about Booktrope's team approach to publishing is the author's involvement in the step-by-step decisions and process of producing the book. For the past four months I've had the pleasure of working with four wonderful, talented women on Running Secrets.

Katrina M. Randall edited and re-edited the manuscript massaging it into a better read and Pamela Hobart Carter reviewed it with eagle eyes seeing mistakes only the best find.

At the same, Loretta Matson created a stellar cover design and calmly worked through my camera phobia to produce an author photo that even I am pleased with.

Behind the scenes, Tiffany White built a marketing plan. Step one was to create a website for my work. Because Running Secrets is the first book of The Alki Trilogy, she created a website for all three books. The first two chapters are now posted in the Peek Inside Running Secrets tab at the top of the page. I hope you enjoy a bit of a teaser!

The Amazon on-line launch date for those of you with e-readers is just a week away: January 7th!  I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it. But even if you don't love the book, even if you're indifferent to the book, even if you think it's the worst book you've ever picked up, I still hope you'll write a quick little review and post it in all the customary spots (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads). Reviews are important. Quantity, I've been told, is what matters. So if you'd like to give a writer a hand, this writer or any writer - write a review.

And finally, an invitation to a Seattle launch party and reading will be posted soon. Promise.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Collaborative Irony

Fall Quarter 2013 has been tough and not just because of an unusually heavy teaching load I gladly accepted to cover for a colleague on emergency leave. Since the quarter began, I’ve been rear-ended, sick, and sprawled flat in the campus parking, a victim of black ice. I have also learned that the new building promised as the future home of my college division has morphed into a multi-use building in direct response to faculty complaint.

Upon learning the completed design of “our” new building had no faculty offices, we voiced concern about privacy and productivity issues with cubicles and about a decision-making process that included zero input from those who will be using the building, namely faculty and students.

The administrative response to our complaint has been to change not the design of the building, but its designated use, thus allowing them to move those who choose not to be stuck in a cluster of cubicles into the vacated offices of those who are more creative and collaborative than we are. Another decision made in the same vacuum, behind the same closed administrative doors as the cubicle decision. Another slap in the face to those of us who have dedicated lifelong careers to the college.

On this day before Thanksgiving, I count my blessings. I’m grateful for mandatory car insurance and the science of antibiotics. I am grateful to the student who helped me off the icy pavement.  And I am grateful to each and every one of the students from every corner of the world who I have worked with over the past three decades – even those who were less than happy with my teaching style – because from all I have learned to be a stronger teacher, a more aware world citizen, and a better human being.  I am grateful to have a secure teaching position and wonderful colleagues across campus who stimulate my creativity. However, I am not grateful for a current administration that seems to define creativity and collaboration by the number of committee meetings a faculty member attends or how often he or she is seen walking across campus with a colleague from a different department.

Those of us who have been at the college longer than most administrators have witnessed the circular patterns of educational reform. We know that this current focus will fade as soon as another “new” idea comes along. The danger lies in designing and constructing a multimillion dollar building on the basis of limited and constantly changing trends in education. And in alienating a dedicated faculty in the process.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Literary Evening for a Worthy Cause

Just a quick note to invite you to an evening in support of the YWCA and domestic violence awareness education sponsored by The Seattle Star and New Discovery School.

Friday 22 November 2013
7:30 p.m.

New Discovery School
7219 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115

Featuring local poets and writers:
Ann Teplick, Anne Sweet, Arleen Williams, Geri Gale,
Jim Teeters, Omar Willey, Pam Carter, Paul Gorman,
Paul Mullin, Priscilla Long, and Samanthe Sheffer

Please, bring a donation for the YWCA and/or purchase Keys to Silence, a collection of poems. Sales benefit local YWCAs.

I'm proud of the work my daughter did at the YWCA Homeless Women's Shelter in Seattle and is now doing at Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress (HCSATS). When I was invited to participate in this worthy cause, I jumped at the opportunity. I hope some of you will be able to come out and show your support.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Bluest Skies

When Booktrope offered me a publishing contract for Running Secrets last summer, I signed (of course) and celebrated. Then the work began. The first step was to form a publishing team. At Booktrope each book is produced by a team consisting of author, editor, designer, book manager/publicist and copy editor. For the past few months I’ve had the pleasure of working with a fabulous team of creative women: Pamela Hobart Carter, Loretta Matson, Katrina Randall, and Tiffany White.

I love the rich blue sky in this cover Loretta has created. It reminds me of the lyrics of the theme song from the 1960s sitcom Here Come the Brides: “The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle.” Those of us who live in Seattle know those gorgeous blue skies mirrored in the sparkling waters of Elliott Bay. Of course, we also know the heavy gray of sky and water as well as the endless days when gray fog rises to meet gray clouds and rain drizzles for weeks on end. It's no surprise that suicide rates in the Pacific Northwest rank among the highest in the country. On one such gray winter day Chris Stevens, the protagonist in Running Secrets, attempts to end her own life. She fails. But will she try again?  

I glance up from my notebook as I write these words to see a trace of pale blue through the heavy clouds on the western horizon, the blue of hope, of promise. I remind myself to take pleasure in every moment of sunshine sneaking through Seattle's heavy gray of autumn and winter. If I’m at my desk at work, or doing laundry at home, or writing in a coffee shop, I should get outside at the first ray of sun and soak in the brilliant light because it may only last five minutes, maybe a half hour, never long enough. Too often I work through the rare sun breaks telling myself I’ll go out as soon as I'm finished and those brief moments of sunlight sparkling on the red and gold radiance of autumn, on the frigid waters of Elliott Bay, slip through my fingers.

In addition to being a hotbed of suicide, the Pacific Northwest also reports high rates of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). One treatment for SAD is exposure to light, preferably sunlight. Would sunlight have helped Chris Stevens’s struggle with depression? I know it improves my mood. I need sunlight, and I'm determined to drop whatever I'm doing, pull on my coat, and head outdoors to enjoy it knowing that the piles of student papers needing grades, the unfinished laundry, the new scene for the next novel will still be waiting for my return, but the Seattle sun waits for no one.

Friday, September 27, 2013

"What I Did on My Summer Vacation"

So here it is Friday of the first week of fall quarter. The equinox came and left, fall fell on Seattle, and I have yet to post this month. Here are a few highlights of my wonderful, glorious, busy summer (sounds a bit like something I might ask my students to write, doesn’t it?) ...

June 2013:    Second Beach and La Push Indian Reservation

Edith and I go way back. She was a young English language student from Switzerland. I was her young teacher. It was 1983. I’d just returned to Seattle after over a decade living in Hawaii and California, Venezuela and Mexico. She was only in Seattle for a few months before returning to Switzerland. Through the years, we lost touch as friends sometimes do. A few years ago I got a Facebook message: “Are you my Arleen?” I was, I am, I always will be. That’s my definition of friendship. In June, Edith returned to the Pacific Northwest for the first time in twenty years. I asked her where she’d like to go. “The sea,” she said. “Like all Swiss, I like the sea.” So we took a road trip and looped the Olympic peninsula. It was paradise.
July 2013:     Bruni's Snow Bowl Hut on Mt. Tahoma 

The first backpacking trip of the summer – short, steep and hot – was my friend Veronique’s annual birthday hike, complete with champagne and birthday cake. The tradition began a half dozen years ago. Veronique had never been backpacking and wanted to try it for her birthday. My husband, Tom, and I have both been backpacking since our teens. We planned a trip and Veronique was hooked. She’s spent her birthday backpacking ever since. This year a group of a dozen of us spent the night on Mt. Tahoma. Here you see my husband and me trudging upward.

July 2013:     Ike Kineswa State Park

A few years back, my friend, Barb, got me back into car camping – something I’d done eons ago as one of nine in an Army surplus tent with a fabulous center pole. This summer it was Lake Mayfield at Ike Kineswa State Park. Not the best choice we’ve ever made – too much noise, too few hikes. Great for kids with bikes, teens with ski boats, men with fishing poles. Not ideal for two women seeking solitude and hiking trails. Getting rained out the second day wasn’t a huge disappointment. It was here with Barb I received the publishing contract for my novel, Running Secrets (read all about it in Writing and Waiting). I would have danced around the campfire if there hadn’t been a burn ban. In the rain? A celebratory hug for the smart phone…
August 2013: No Name Lake

Really. It has no name. At least not on the green map. You know, those backpacker maps with all the trails and elevations marked. Tom and I were backpacking at Mirror Lake. We headed off on the PCT (that’s the Pacific Crest Trail – the one from Canada to Mexico Cheryl Strayed made famous in Wild – funny book, btw). I saw what looked to be an animal trail rising to the left off the PCT and thought we might get a view of Mirror Lake from the ridge, so we scrambled upward. That’s when the-bear-went-over-the-mountain syndrome got the better of me, and we kept going and going. The reward? Skinny dipping in No Name Lake. And no, not posting those photos (but yes, they exist). Here’s one of the lake. Sans naked bodies…
September 2013:      Shi Shi Beach and Makah Indian Reservation

Tom moaned his jealousy. Repeatedly. I’d been to the Pacific Coast with Edith. He had not. He wanted to hike the beach, sleep on the sand, poke around in tide pools. “Only three flat miles and mostly boardwalk,” he said. It wasn’t until later, when we were loading our packs – mine came in at a low 22 pounds – he figured he should mention the 150-foot drop to the beach at the end of that flat trail. “There’s a rope to hold onto,” he offered.

We woke misty-rainy wet the first morning, unsure whether to stay or go. But as we warmed ourselves with a morning fire and coffee, the sun rose over the hill behind us and the Pacific shimmered before us. We stayed to the reward of a glorious day, a breathtaking sunset, and the Milky Way.

Between the camping trips, boating, swimming, dog walks, bike rides and family visits, I did, in fact, work this summer. I finished Biking Uphill, Book Two of the Alki Trilogy, and read the entire manuscript aloud to Tom as we drove to Cape Disappointment and back again. Including on the ferry ride. I think Tom agreed to listen just so I’d go along! 

Running Secrets inches closer to publication each day. My Booktrope publishing team solidified in late August, and I couldn’t be more pleased with this group of fabulous women: Tiffany White, book manager, Katrina Randall, editor, Loretta Matson, designer, and Pamela Carter, proofreader. I hit the send button on the first round of edits last Sunday, the day before fall quarter classes began! And just this week, on a break between classes, I got my first glimpse of the cover design. No image here. Not yet. Maybe next month.