Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Biggest Snowman

It's another snow day here in New Hampshire, and the neighbourhood kids have been playing in it since before nine o'clock this morning. Their favourite part is traipsing through other people's yards, seeing who can claim the first prints in the new snow. Our dog, Lucy, has been barking like crazy all day, policing the front and back lawns as best she can from the inside, making her rounds at each window perch and giving the panes new nose prints.

I finally venture out a just before noon, to make sure our mail man can make it safely onto our porch.

"Where have you been?" Dennis, the fourth grader, asks me. "The snow pile's gotta be twenty feet high by now." I hadn't seen him or the others for at least a week. That is, in person. And the snow plow pile is at the end of our cul-de-sac, rising up like a giant snow cone and sprinkled with purple and green sleds.

"Guess I've been stuck inside," I say to Dennis. "But I've kind of wanted to, working on my next novel."

"Is it about animals, too?"

"No. It's historical fiction."

"What does that mean?"

"It's a story inspired about things that happened sixty years ago, in an Arizona town I used to live near."

"So that's where you lived, sixty years ago?"

Great. Now the ring leader of the neighborhhod thinks I'm at least 60 when I'm not even nearly eligible for AARP, yet.

"No, I lived there 10 years ago. I'm not even close to sixty."

Dennis shrugs and walks up our porch with his snowboard and boots. They look like they might ahve crampons on them. "I know what's historical fiction," he says, poking at the statue. "Your duck. It still got his Santa suit on. And it's not even Christmas."

I decorate the metal duck my husband gave me as an anniversary present, and the kids always like to remind me if I've missed a holiday. Like say, Shrove Tuesday, or Dress Silly Day at school, or, if I've let a holiday linger for too long.

"Shouldn't you be making a snowman, or something?" I ask Dennis, taking off the duck's Santa suit and freezing my fingers.

"You mean you haven't seen it?" Dennis says, jumping off the porch and telling me I better follow. When we turn around the corner I can't believe what I see. It's a giant snowman, bigger than any kids have made before, at least around here. Soaring 8feet high with two tennis balls for eyes and a black plastic storage bin for a hat.

"My dad helped us."

No kidding. But still, pretty impressive.

"Looks like it'll last all winter."

Dennis frowns.

"Don't you want it to?" I ask.

"I don't know," he shrugs. "I wanna make a new one." He runs to the end of the street where the snow pile's got at least a half inch of new fluff to slide over.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My First Blog Interview

Slowly but surely, like the steady stream of snow that keeps accumulating out my window, I am navigating my way into the social media arena, and yesterday, I had my first blog interview. You can catch it on and get the chance to win a copy of LITTLE JOE, too.

The mix of questions were both lighthearted and thought-provoking and it was a joy to sit back and really contemplate not only the writing process, but who I am as a writer. Many novels that I devoured as a child have influenced and inspired my writing, but also helped shape my world, so I know how important a dedicated librarian and bookseller can be.

But what I'm enjoying most from the blog interview, is connecting with readers. It's what bonds us. And there are so many voracious and enthusiastic readers out there who truly value what authors do and the often arduous writing process. We all have compelling stories. Telling mine is how I connect to the world around me. It's how I connect with you. My goal this year is to be as much of a reader as a writer, to connect even more.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy Anniversary in Heaven, Grandma

My grandmother passed away a year ago this week. In a small farming town in southern Ontario, with both my mother and sister holding her hand.
I missed her passing by an hour-- my husband and I were airborne circling above Detroit. After we'd landed my sister found it hard to tell me the news over the phone, and I didn't think I'd be so devastated. My heart sank and my husband stopped the car,turned into a parking lot and let me cry.
The reason I didn't think I'd be so saddened was because my grandmother had lived to be 95 and in my life for 47 years-- more time than most grandchildren are fortunate enough to have. My friends kept reminding me of that before I got on the plane. And I was hoping that fact would somehow make the loss easier, but the truth of it was, my grandmother has been such a part of me, knowing she was gone left a gaping hole in my heart.
My sister said Grandma never let go of her hand at the end, that when she finally blew out her last breath, half an hour later, Grandma's fingers were still warm in my sister's palm, and that she left this world with her eyes wide open. Which was so like my grandmother.
When anyone hears what she experienced in her long life, their eyes either fill with tears or they grow wide and the conversation slows to a pause-- even a halt. But my grandmother rarely did either. She fought back.
Widowed at 26 when her husband's car collided with a hay truck along a wooden bridge in Yugoslavia, my grandmother took over the family farm and tavern, raising her six-month-old daughter, alone. It was the second World War, and soon after, she was sent to a concentration camp along with my mother and great-grandmother.
She kept her tribe alive, and many other women, too. When the Red Cross finally found them, they called it a miracle.
I'm the first generation who isn't a prisoner of war, my husband points out, but what I remember most is my grandmother's sense of humour, and her zest for life. How she would arrive on weekends at our house by bus, with a giant bag of cheesies nearly as tall as herself. She had weekends off, working as a live-in housekeeper. With her slim wages she refused to have more than two of anything-- two dresses, two purses, one pair of shoes for working, one for weekending. She saved her extra quarters to eventually buy a small house, no bigger than most people's living room's, and got up at dawn every morning to make cakes and goulashes and to tend to her garden. She never drove. Grandma thought cars were a waste of one's heard-earned money and that walking was the way to go anywhere. She walked to the cemetery every day. To visit friends, or those she didn't know. She watered their flowers, or swept the snow off their tombstones. She told me it was what you did in the old country. Pay your respects. She had her own funeral and cemetery plot bought and paid for many decades before it was needed. And when she was buried, it was snowing quite hard, like it was this weekend, one year later.
I'm not there to sweep off her tombstone. And I wish that I was. But I read that the sun came out today by mid afternoon. I'm hoping it found its way to her spot.