Back to School Treasure

I wasn’t planning to offer up more links this soon, but then I ran across several things that I just couldn’t wait to show you.  This is what comes of having my children back in school and having more time for reading of all sorts. 

Internet treasure! (Yes, it exists.  It’s just buried under the refuse.)

  • This.  This is the reason I couldn’t wait to show these.  I’d like to make a million comments, but Gaiman already said it all so well that I should just let you read his own words.  

 “And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people… You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.”

“And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.  As JRR Tolkien reminded us, the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers.”

Just so, so much win here.  Go read the whole thing.  

  • And just in case you thought Neil Gaiman was making up that empathy thing, some science to back him up. It turns out reading fiction makes you a better, more empathetic friend.  

“In the study, empathy was only apparent in the groups of people who read fiction and who were emotionally transported. Meanwhile, those who were not transported demonstrated a decrease in empathy.”

But then, we already knew that, right?  Because we’ve felt it ourselves.

  • Speaking of reading, this one made me laugh…a smug laugh that only other readers won’t find obnoxious.  So I knew I had to share it with you!
  • And while we’re feeling smug (as if we ever stopped…) go take this vocabulary test to see how many words you know.  Apparently I know 34,800 words.  Which probably explains why I talk so much.
  • And then let’s resume our proper place in the universe and be inspired by the beauty and perspective of these photos.  I feel like there are a lot of interesting thoughts to think while looking at them.  And none of them are about how great I am.
  • While we’re being inspired (and put in our place)…look at these.  Beautiful.  Fanciful.  Inspired by fairy tales.  I want to buy them all.  
  • Then let’s read this, and cry a little, and laugh a little, and be more empathetic.  It will make us better.

See what I mean?  Some things you just shouldn’t miss out on. 

Happy Monday, everyone, and may back-to-school be the best version of itself.

    Summer Gold

    School is wrapping up. Field trips are popping up everywhere. Little League is into the playoffs stage. End of season parties are in the books. We’ve navigated May and are plunging into June. 

    Right on schedule my head feels like it’s going to explode.

    But don’t worry! May always brings me to the full-adrenalin verge of deliriously happy exhaustion. In a couple of weeks we’ll stop setting the alarm, stop having games every night, and just stop. And maybe breathe. And enjoy a few weeks of hot and outdoor and always-together summer fun before happily starting it all over again. 

    That’s the turning of the year. I love it.

    So! For those of you already facing the long days of summer (and for those of us who can feel it coming),  a few warm and glowing things for your brain.

    • Summer gatherings are coming up. How each personality type parties. I’m an ENTP and my husband is an INFJ. This is spot on for us and made me chuckle for a week.
    • I am so going to do this project this summer. I think my kids will love it, too.
    • This also looks easy and fun.
    • This is a concept I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. The small, happy life. Not much to this article, but it’s enough to start us thinking. Let’s meet back here and discuss more thoughts later.
    • And on a much less serious note, let’s know what to do if we see any bears in the wild this summer. You can’t be too prepared. (Warning: not a kid friendly link. Lots of swears but enough laughs that you’ll feel forgiving.)
    • Speaking of wildlife, remember when we speculated on what to do if zoo animals showed up in our yard? Now we know.
    • And finally, a song to make you happy this summer. The boy and I could not stop singing it after we heard it the other day.  And why should we? Sing it all away, my darlings.

    Happy Summer, everyone! 

    Monday Morning Treasure – The Spring Edition

    springgreenIt finally looks and feels like spring!  There is so much green around me right now that I could write a poem.  Except that when I’ve reached this level of happy I actually find myself wanting to say nothing at all.  (Which is good, because what would be more unoriginal than a poem about spring?)

    So! More happy reveling in green and less blathering about it.

    Check out these little bits of inspiration for our Monday morning.

      • Words. More delicious and satisfying even than food (and let me tell you how I feel about food…). I have this little idea that I want to take each one of these words and make it the title of a short story or poem.  Fun April challenge? Yes. Let’s.
      • More fun with words. It only takes a minute to play around with this, but I think it’s a fun idea for a way to create a story. Start with a simple phrase and expand and expand.  Where could it take you? We’re totally trying this one here soon. See how we steal things are inspired by the internet?
      • Just something magical to look at at. Because magic is worth taking a minute to soak in.
      • Just when we think maybe we’re wasting our time with all this story-telling nonsense, we get little reminders like this.  Art is not a luxury. (And are you reading Jen? Because she is worth following.)
      • More eye candy.  Magical photography AND miniatures.  Two of my favorite things.  Also a really fun sci-fi short story in here somewhere.  What if your life was really just someone’s diorama? (It’s been done, but if Stephen King could ruin it in Under The Dome, maybe you’re the one to redeem it?)
      • I’m obsessed with George Ezra these days. His voice, you guys. I never get tired of listening to this.  And this.  And of course, this.  Take the time for these songs.  You’ll be humming all day.  Also, this one makes me smile and really is a musical story-telling at its best:

    Happy Spring, everyone!

    Let’s make something beautiful this week.  And while we’re at it, let’s make this week something beautiful.


    Monday Morning Treasure, the Real People Edition


    The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time.
    -Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel

    The stories being lived out all around me, the stories lived out in days long gone, they matter.  My life isn’t lived in a vacuum. On the contrary, every cell in my body is recycled matter.

    I’m taking some time this week to feel my insignificance, my teeny tiny thread in the giant tapestry that is all of us and all of history.

    With that in mind, here are some real people who are doing real things.  Their stories put little tendrils into my brain in the last couple of weeks, and I’m wondering if they’ll do the same for you.

    • Someone whose world view is divergent from my own, but whose mother heart is feeling its way through the darkness in the same way as mine.
    • Lola Akinmade Akerstrom: Her whole story is fascinating, but I can’t stop thinking about her words on adapting the pursuit of your dreams once you have a family. So balanced and wise.
    • Not everything you do has to change the world.  Sometimes a little chalk can be enough.
    • Over the Rhine never ceases to inspire me, and Linford’s take on the continuity of our stories is stunningly beautiful.
    • Most wonderful of all, our stories are still in progress, and every day is a chance to make our life a really good tale.
    • A Meditation on Pain.  This story haunts me.
    • And before you get too depressed, read this.  You’ll be thinking about your own beauty for the rest of the day. (Seriously. Just read it.  You’ll see what I mean.)

    Okay, enough internet.  I’m off to to get all my work done so I can start reading Look Homeward, Angel again because Thomas Wolfe’s lush, gorgeous language is all stuck in my head now.  The man was a depressing lunatic, but he could do things with words that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  And yes, that’s a recommendation.

    P.S. That photo up there is my grandmother, on a horse with three children, because WHY NOT.  Remind me to tell you bits of her story sometime.  In my heart, that woman belongs on this list. (Which is a high honor, but only click that link if you’re feeling brave and don’t mind a whole lot of foul language with your hilarious feminist sarcasm.)

    Digging Deep: Treasure for your February

    February is the worst.

    Sorry. Did I already start a post that way? I think I may have. Yeah. Well.

    This is what February feels like to me. Just really a place I don’t want to be.

    I was thinking the other day that really, as a storyteller, this ought to be my favorite time of year. The cold has driven us all inside. There’s nothing left to do but huddle around the fire and tell stories. In ancient days that’s how they survived the winter.  Mugs of ale, crackling fire, animal skins, and a minstrel or bard to keep everyone from killing each other. Not much has changed.  I should be in my glory.

    Just one problem. I really, really hate being cold. It freezes my brain as well as my toes.

    You know those minstrels did all their song-writing in the summer, walking by streams and eating fruit from orchards, and then saved them up for the winter months. I’m pretty sure they had the right idea.

    Spring. Please tell me you are coming soon.

    BUT!!  We have tools available to us that bards of old did not.  When we can’t go outside and find flowers and waterfalls to inspire us we can open our magic boxes and let the internet take us away.

    • Look! Someone is doing something creative and different! Red Rocket Farm is telling stories with illustrations one frame a day.  You can follow it over time at the blog or on their Facebook page.  They just finished up a story, and you can read the whole thing at once now, but here’s hoping a new one starts soon, and we’ll get a little something new to look forward to every day.
    • I’m obsessed with titling these days (mostly because I’m terrible at it). I’ve been struggling for months to come up with a title for my fourth book, and then this morning my husband suggested the perfect one on the first try. I simultaneously love him and want to strangle him. But I comfort myself with Steinbeck: “I have never been a title man. I don’t give a dam [sic] what it is called.” (This in a discussion of what to call East of Eden, which is a perfect title. Read the article. It’s fascinating.)
    • This. This is NOT a good title. title
    • Speaking of titles, this is the best name for an instagram account ever. It’s a pretty cool concept, too.
    • When we’re too cold to make up our own stories, there are always books.  I keep hearing wonderful things about Station 11. Waiting on my library copy with a great degree of impatience.
    • And I know I’m not the only one who’s got “re-read To Kill a Mockingbird” on their to-do list right now. I CAN NOT wait for Harper Lee’s new book.  Have you seen the cover? When you’re this good, you can keep it as simple as you like.
    • This about says it all. And I’m proud to say, I’ve heard it from my daughter about a million times now, too. My work here is done.
    • For some serious inspiration to create, read the transcript of Bob Dylan’s acceptance speech at the Grammy’s. So many emotions. The thrill of hearing him say his songs all came flowing out of the immense amount of music he had imbibed over the years. (I knew my “need” to read wasn’t just an excuse.) A little guilt over how many times I’ve criticized his voice.  (But really…) And some laughs, too:

      Critics have made a career out of accusing me of having a career of confounding expectations. Really? Because that’s all I do. That’s how I think about it. Confounding expectations. 

      “What do you do for a living, man?”

      “Oh, I confound expectations.”

    • And a final laugh for your day. I never get tired of these.

    Have a great week, everyone, and heads high.  March will be here soon.

    Some Golden Inspiration

    Because January is exactly like this, we’re on the hunt for inspiration these days.  I’m not feeling quite as earnest as I was last Monday, so let’s just float around the internet and stare at beautiful and interesting things that might inspire us to create.


    Ready?  Set?  Go:

    •  This wind map is mesmerizing, and I can’t help but feel that there are endless story possibilities here.  I’m picturing things floating on those winds.  I’m picturing the air from our neighbors blowing over us.  I’m picturing the endless motion of the world.
    • Just found this wonderful site with beautiful high res pictures offered up for free download.  This is something I can get behind.  Pictures inspire me, but I’m useless at creating my own.  Check out this one.  The stars, the water, the lonely house.  Oh, the possibilities.
    • Humor as inspiration.  I’ve been following these for a while, but here they are all in one place.  Warning:  Not safe for children!  But this is a whole new way for art to inspire us.  A way I can totally get behind.
    • Language as inspiration.  I love, love, love these concepts.  Especially hygge.  And I love all those words that exist in other languages and can’t really be translated into our own.  Language and culture are endlessly fascinating.  Definitely planning to practice some hygge today.
    • Create!  It doesn’t have to be a fantasy epic.  Even if all you are creating is a little story or sketch to amuse your children.  You’re making the world a warmer place.
    • Having a hard time getting started?  Neil Gaiman has some excellent advice.   (If you only click on one link today, make it this one.)

    I’ve been reading some serious things and thinking some serious thoughts this week, too, but let’s save those for another day, shall we?  Today, let’s make something small, something that only takes the little bit of energy we have but is something.

    Maybe we’ll be surprised at how big a difference a small something can make.

    Silver and Gold

    Because it’s Christmas, and you can’t just have gold on Christmas.  A snowman told me so.

    It’s a busy, people, parties, presents, cookies, drinks, and family kind of week.  I thrive on chaos, but we’ve reached a new high around here, so I may possibly have upped the stress eating more than is recommended.  (Is there a recommended amount of stress eating?  If the answer is none, please don’t tell me.)

    Don’t worry, though.  I still have your back.  I know that (the ten of) you are counting on some distraction.  Your kids are off school for two weeks.  You need this  Check it out:

    • I do this ALL THE TIME, but, you know, in my head.  Making it into an Instagram account was genius, especially since they’re highly entertaining. Also, this could be a really fun game with kids.
    • You might find the rest of these entertaining, but you absolutely HAVE to watch the first one.  With your kids.  There’s this one moment…you’ll know it when it happens.  It made my girls gasp and giggle.
    • Fascinating little story about a dude who built a theater in the desert and then, surprise! never got to use it.  It’s abandoned now.  It’s the pictures that make this worth while.  I want to make up all sorts of fun stories about that place.
    • And when I’m done writing mysteries about the desert, I’m writing something very dramatic that takes place here.  (But I don’t want to go there, thank you.  Weather that could make those ice sculptures is not my kind of weather.)
    • Ever since we saw Mockingjay, this song keeps getting stuck in my head.  I’m haunted.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet and this song doesn’t make you want to, we need to have a long talk.
    • Not to let the real world into this space too much, but this was one of my favorite reads of the last couple of weeks.  Chris Rock is a smart and thoughtful man.  And that stands even if you don’t agree with his politics or like his comedy.
    • Joy is a choice (yes, I’m annoying and actually say things like that).  Choose joy by watching this video.  Walk off the Earth always makes me smile, so if this isn’t enough to lift your stress, click the links after the song and enjoy more of their delightful work.  You won’t be sorry.

    Feliz Navidad, everyone.  Happy, happy days to you all.