Category Archives: Uncategorized

Changes

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Although I’ve continued to work on fiction, I haven’t posted much here in the last year, other than a few poems. My life has felt different ever since last July when my mother entered the ICU and almost didn’t come out. She was there for 5 weeks; intubated for twice as long as is normally acceptable. I live over 2,000 miles away from my parents, so in the beginning, every day was shadowed and marked with a much-needed update on her condition. There wasn’t room in my brain for a lot more.

My first 10-day visit almost hollowed me out. But by the time I left, she was in an almost-normal hospital room. It felt miraculous, but still tenuous.

My second visit, her first week home, was a different kind of gut-wrench. To see my lively, capable mother so distressed felt equally distressing. (Although I’m sure it wasn’t.)

Then to see how remarkably she’d progressed by Christmastime was a full-out joy.

During this whole time and before, my brother–in-law had been battling cancer. He fought bravely and well for two years, but his last few weeks were devastating. He went Home a day before Valentine’s. His passing has left an enormous hole.

And now it is spring. The day before yesterday we celebrated Easter. I have a first grandchild on the way. I am recounting this now because life is ahead. But I will be forever altered by the last nine months.

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Valentine Dragon Story

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An homage to these guys (and for the Valentiny Contest):

dragons four

Part of an illustration by Pascal Lemaitre.

Dragon Hearts, by Judith L. Roth (214 words)

 

I hear their hearts beating. Dragon hearts.

Blue’s heart beats like a tambourine because he’s flashy.

Green’s heart beats like a drum. So steady.

Yellow’s is bouncy like tap shoes.

But Red’s is grumpy. Today, Red’s heart is like a sad tuba with nothing happy to say.

What’s the matter, Red? I ask.

Red turns away. He stomps on each flower he passes.

A smash-flower bouquet? I ask.

Red turns away. He picks up stones and flings them into the stream.

A rock-skipping dismal day?

Red turns away. He bats at each redbud leaf he passes. Then he snaps one off, holds it high, and scorches it.

I finally notice. Each flower bud, each stone shape, each redbud leaf is a heart.

Valentine’s Day has come to the forest, and no one has given Red a valentine.

I race back to the others. Blue sprinkles Green and Yellow with flowers from a bleeding-heart fern. Green plants a heartful seed-pod in the dirt. Yellow serves up a dish of strawberry hearts.

Red has left too soon.

I call him with my beating heart. Come, tum-tum, and see.

            Blue, Yellow and Green join in. Come, tum-tum, to me.

            Red rumbles back, paws full of nature’s gifts–unsmashed, unflung, unscorched.

The best kind of hearts. Dragon hearts.

Serendipity & Me launched

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Thanks to all the family and friends who helped make the book launch party a success. My sister-in-law, Nancy, is queen of the kitchen on these events. My husband’s band, Re/Issued, makes it a party. These great guys learned Needtobreathe’s song, “Something Beautiful” for me, even though it was outside of their comfort zone. Thanks to all for making the night something beautiful for me….

Re/Issued playing at the Serendipity & Me book launch party

Re/Issued playing at the Serendipity & Me book launch party

Love Songs for Valentine’s Day

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In Serendipity & Me, Sara’s parents are brought together through a book of poetry called Love Songs, by Sara Teasdale. Sara is then named for this early 20th century American poet.

I hope this doesn’t embarrass my editors, but neither of them recognized Sara Teasdale’s name. One of them thought we’d need to write her to get permission to use her words (but her words were quite old enough to be in the public domain); the other thought this made-up poet should be writing poetry more suited to an adult.

Apparently Sara Teasdale is no longer a part of American Literature curriculum. Which shows my age that I know who she is, I guess.

It seems a loss, to me. So here is a page from my 1926 copy of Love Songs, (which I found online especially to use for Serendipity & Me). Consider it my valentine to you.

from Love Songs, by Sara Teasdale, (The MacMillan Co., 1926)

from Love Songs, by Sara Teasdale, (The MacMillan Co., 1926)

Goodnight, Dragons giveaway

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In celebration of Children’s Book Week, I’m giving away a copy of my picture book, Goodnight, Dragons.

To enter the drawing, mention this giveaway and my website somewhere on the web. Then tell me in the comment box where you mentioned it. The drawing will run until midnight on Mother’s Day (West Coast time, in a nod to my California friends and family).

To get an extra entry, comment on Pascal Lemaitre’s wonderful illustrations so I can send some appreciation his way.

Two for one books

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One of the two books of mine that I’m selling has a setting of Mexico. When I worked with youth in California, there were several years that we went down to Baja for a week at a time to work on church buildings and on building relationships in the little village of La Mission. This was not far from Ensenada, where my first picture book, Cups Held Out, takes place.

Every year that I was there, I was in charge of feeding the group. Anyone who knows me will find this laughable as I don’t cook. I had the great good fortune to marry someone who likes to cook, and so I leave that to him. Washing dishes is my forte. But my meal preparation on these trips was all set up in advance by a very organized person (Rachel), and I just had to open cans and heat things up for the most part.

La Mission is perched on the side of a very steep hill. I have memories of trekking down to the little store at the bottom of the hill, buying bottles of pop for the kids, and climbing back up the hill, bottles clinking. The mornings were so clear and new–we had no electricity or bathrooms so we felt more connected to the earth. Roosters crowed across the valley. Our washing water came from a reservoir built deep in the ground with cement bricks. We dropped a bucket down inside to retrieve the water. The rustic nature of our time there made it seem like more of a real life.

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, and in remembrance of those simple days, I am selling my two picture books at two for the price of one, starting now and continuing through May 5. You can buy two of Cups Held Out, or two of Julia’s Words, or one of each. To get this price, ($10.00, plus $2.99 s/h)  buy one on the buy button (under the “books” tab) and leave me a message as to the other one you want included with it. I think this will work–hopefully with five days to play with we can make sure it does. Plenty of time to ask and answer questions.

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone!

What should I work on next?

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Other than some final copyediting tasks, I am finished with Serendipity and Me. Now I can start on my next big project. But I can’t decide what that will be. The top three finalists for this question are:

1. The Other Jessamy. This is a book that was written all the way through, but the protagonist wasn’t likeable enough. To change things up, I started rewriting it in a novel-in-verse style. So much better! But it changed the character so much that now, halfway through the book, I don’t know how it ends or where to go from here. Frustrating.

2. Three Prayers. A historical novel set in 1850 in Indiana. I know how it ends, but I don’t know how to get from the middle part to the end.  This one’s a departure for me because it’s not written in first person. It’s written in third person from three different viewpoints.

3. Game of My Life. Started as a poem picture book. Like Serendipity and Me, an editor asked me to make it into a novel-in-verse, so I did. It has been reworked many times and has gotten a lot of attention, but no final bite. One death knell–who would read it? Editors can’t believe soccer players would read poetry. The higher literary houses want more development behind the character to balance the soccer. I’m wondering if time spent on this would ultimately come to naught. But I badly want this one made into a book. My oldest son deserves his chance for a book dedicated solely to him.

So. Meanwhile I’m avoiding the issue by playing around with picture book texts. They require less commitment. But I need to make a decision and get started on something bigger.

I’d love to know what you would do, or which you’d rather read. How do you decide which project to work on next?

Brendan flying through the air in Italy...a decade ago

Cups Held Out available here

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Postcard by Brooke Rothshank for Cups Held Out

I have bought all the remaining inventory of Cups Held Out from Herald Press, and a large chunk of Julia’s Words as well. I’m now ready to sell my first two picture books myself. You can buy them by going to my “Books” tab at the top of the site. The books are now $10.00 each, with shipping at $2.99 in the U.S. I can personalize and sign them for you.

I believe Brooke illustrated Cups Held Out with pastels, and Julia’s Words with watercolors. Although her last name is a compilation of her maiden name and her husband’s last name, she is not related to my husband. At least, not closely enough so we know about it!